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CT Port Authority investigation concludes; no illegal conduct found

Molly Ingram

After spending nearly four years investigating the actions of the Connecticut Port Authority, Attorney General William Tong’s office released a report on Thursday announcing it uncovered ethical violations at the maritime agency but did not find evidence of broader illegal conduct.

The report effectively revealed what was already known: that a former staffer at the Port Authority allegedly violated the state’s ethics laws by accepting gifts from Seabury Capital, a company that operated as a consultant for the maritime agency, and that Henry Juan III, a former board member of the Port Authority, allegedly lobbied the Port Authority on behalf of Seabury, where he was an officer and managing director.

Seabury, Juan and the former staffer, Andrew Lavigne, had previously been fined by the Office of State Ethics as a result of allegations brought by the Attorney General’s office.

“The investigation developed evidence of several potential violations of Codes of Ethics, which were referred to the Office of State Ethics and the Office of the Chief State’s Attorney,” the press release said. “Those referrals formed the basis of four enforcement actions by the Office of State Ethics.”

“The ethics referral was made as soon as the Attorney General made a determination that potential ethics violations existed, but that was not the conclusion of our investigation nor the sole statute or enforcement avenue that was reviewed,” said spokesperson Elizabeth Benton.

The Attorney General’s office opened the investigation in early 2020 after it received a whistleblower complaint that was referred by the Connecticut Auditors of Public Accounts.

That whistleblower complaint was primarily focused on Seabury and a $523,000 “success fee” the company received from the Port Authority as part of its consulting contract.

Tong’s office said it reviewed more than 223,000 pages of documents as part of its investigation, but it said it did not find evidence that a crime was committed when the Port Authority board awarded that success fee to Seabury.

“Not only were the success fee provisions legal, but they were also sanctioned by the CPA Board of Directors,” the attorney general’s office explained in its report.

The success fees may have been legal under Connecticut law at that time in 2018, when the deal was entered with Seabury. But state lawmakers passed a bill in 2023 banning the Port Authority’s use of such contracting arrangements from then on.

All of the violations that were referred to the Office of State Ethics were resolved nearly a half a year ago.

The Attorney General’s office emphasized in its press release that it takes these types of whistleblower allegations seriously.

“While the investigation did not develop evidence of illegal conduct for which the OAG has enforcement authority, we stand ready to implement and utilize our enforcement jurisdiction whenever violations of law giving rise to that authority occur,” the statement said.

The Connecticut Port Authority issued a statement on Thursday saying the public should have confidence in the maritime agency because of its operations in more recent years.

“While the Connecticut Port Authority has no comment regarding the Attorney General’s press release, the CPA is proud of the professional administration of its policies, procedures, and financial management over the past few years, which should give the public confidence that the foundation for success is in place,” the statement read.

Gov. Ned Lamont told members of the media on Thursday that he’d not had the opportunity to read the Attorney General’s report, but he was pleased the investigation was conducted.

“I’m glad that William (Tong) looked into it,” Lamont said. “Leave no stone unturned.”

The Port Authority is a current focus point for Lamont and his administration, largely because of multiple investigations into the quasi-public agency and the redevelopment of the State Pier in New London.

Earlier this week, Lamont officially proposed folding the maritime agency into the Connecticut Airport Authority, which manages the state’s aviation facilities.

The legislature is expected to consider that proposal later this year.

Launched in 2010, The Connecticut Mirror specializes in in-depth news and reporting on public policy, government and politics. CT Mirror is nonprofit, non-partisan, and digital only.