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Connecticut Port Authority is under scrutiny of state contracting auditors

Connecticut State Pier construction.PNG
CT Mirror
Governor Ned Lamont and David Kooris, the chairman of the CT Port Authority, tour the State Pier in New London in March 2022.

A newly staffed State Contracting Standards Board has held its first meeting of 2023 with new questions about the Connecticut Port Authority.

Robert Rinker, the acting board chair, said with more staff, they’re in a better position to carry out their auditing work for the state.

“The board had not had, except for its executive director, had not had any staff in its existence,” he said. “And now we have the staff to do the research. We have an attorney dedicated to the board. We have a new executive director and an auditor. We really now have the tools at the board that we never had before.”

The board is responsible for making sure state contracting and procurement is open and cost effective and follows federal and state laws.

Governor Ned Lamont appointed Greg Daniels, the former director of procurement contracts and compliance for the University of Connecticut, to serve as executive director of the board in December. He began serving in the role on Jan. 13.

“I look forward to working with all stakeholders to implement efficient and effective practices that will result in value-driven procurement outcomes that benefit Connecticut’s citizens,” Daniels said in a statement.

Last year, the board questioned a $500,000 success fee paid by the port authority to Seabury Capital for securing a contractor for redeveloping the State Pier in New London, which is also under investigation by the state Attorney General’s office.

The pier is expected to be ready to begin welcoming turbine pieces in February to help the construction and operation of wind farms in the Atlantic Ocean.

The board is now shifting to look into Kiewit, the construction manager for the State Pier project. Its members will determine whether it was legal for Kiewit to award itself millions of dollars of work.

“Should somebody with oversight via construction actually be doing construction work on the pier? If this had been a state project that would not have been allowed under state law,” Rinker said.

State Senator Cathy Osten and State Representative Christine Conley, two eastern Connecticut state legislators, are introducing bills that would place limits on the port authority and other state quasi-public agencies, and would prohibit construction managers hired by those agencies from applying for work associated with projects they’re overseeing.

“The State Contracting Standards Board has an important responsibility of ensuring that government practices are handled in the most efficient and effective manner on behalf of the residents of our state,” Lamont said in his appointment of Daniels last month.

An award-winning freelance reporter/host for WSHU, Brian lives in southeastern Connecticut and covers stories for WSHU across the Eastern side of the state.