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Connecticut Port Authority was allowed to form partnership with State Pier project managers

Connecticut Attorney General William Tong
Ebong Udoma

This story was updated to include new language in a revised version of the state attorney general's formal opinion regarding whether the office was taking a legal position in the matter. The statement was not a legal opinion.

State Attorney General William Tong said the Connecticut Port Authority was within its rights when it hired a harbor management company to operate the State Pier in New London as a hub for the offshore wind industry.

The formal opinion came Tuesday at the request of the State Contracting Standards Board to look into whether the port authority was allowed to enter into a public-private partnership.

"This opinion does not speak to the legality, propriety, or ethics of any particular public-private partnership," Tong wrote. "We do not assume that any specific project or development characterized as a “public-private partnership” is — or should be — a partnership within the meaning of chapter 55d of the General Statutes."

Tong said the port authority, and other quasi-public agencies, was allowed, under state law, to make these agreements at the time.

The port authority formed partnerships with Gateway, Eversource and Orsted in 2020. The law changed the following year when a legislative amendment curbed any quasi-public agency from establishing any new public-private partnerships. That power is now limited to the state Department of Transportation.

Andrew Lavigne, the manager of business development and special projects, said “the attorney general's opinion is welcomed confirmation” of the quasi-public agency’s statutory authority.

Acting State Standards Board Chair Robert Rinker said they are reviewing the formal opinion, but he raised concerns about how the state should interpret public-private partnerships where quasi-publics are involved. “The Connecticut General Assembly may wish to address this during their current legislative session,” he said.

The state attorney general’s office is still investigating the $500,000 success fee the port authority paid to its consultant Seabury Capital for finding the State Pier project a contractor.

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.