Police question Kevin Blacker over email calling Gov. Lamont a wimp

Kevin Blacker, the Noank landscaper whose citizen activism has helped expose the Connecticut Port Authority as a scandal-ridden wreck, on Saturday sent out one of his typical email blasts.

This one, complaining that the Transportation Committee's planned Tuesday hearing on the authority would be no more than a "choreographed political farce," was sent to dozens of people, with the first recipient being Gov. Ned Lamont. I got a copy.

"Ned Lamont is a yellow-belly wimp. He's hiding up in Maine, probably under his bed, at a time when this state needs a leader," Blacker wrote.

"Gov. Lamont is a yellow belly," was the beginning of the email's subject line.

Taking a turn to drama, Blacker added in the email that he has been warned his activism against the billions at play in wind development at the port could lead to harm to him or his family, that their blood could be on the governor's hands. He wrote that a lawyer involved in the port deals once warned him he could be killed.

Flash forward to Tuesday morning when Blacker, waiting patiently on a bench in the marble lobby of the Legislative Office Building before the start of the hearing, was approached by two Connecticut State Police officers in plainclothes. They flashed their badges and led him to a nearby closed room.

They were joined by a uniformed officer, who stood at the door while the two detectives sat across a table from Blacker and questioned him about his email. They said they were investigating a complaint of a threatening email.

At this point in the story, you are probably thinking, this is America? Actually, it turns out, this is indeed Gov. Lamont's Connecticut.

By the time I caught up with Blacker during a recess in Tuesday's hearing, he told me about, well, I guess you'd call it an interrogation. He still looked a little unsettled and worried out loud about whether he should call a lawyer.

The officers said they wanted him to wait for a cruiser to come and escort them to their troop headquarters and sign a statement, he said, missing the hearing.

The police officers wanted to know why he sent the email to so many recipients, Blacker told me. They asked if he does that a lot. They wanted to know if he knew that the public would not be allowed to speak at the hearing, and they warned him about not disrupting the proceedings, he added.

Blacker has attended dozens of hearings related to the port authority, usually contributing a few minutes of comment when allowed, and is always polite and restrained.

It is unimaginable to me that police were sent to question and try to lead away a prominent critic of the Lamont administration. It's intimidating when police come at you and ask you to come down to the station.

Maybe he is right to be paranoid, because he has certainly upset a lot of apple carts, some pushed by powerful monied interests. I think it is fair to suggest there wouldn't even have been a hearing Tuesday if not for Blacker's dogged activism and the troubling issues he has raised about port authority corruption.

I asked Paul Mounds, the governor's chief operating officer who testified at the hearing, about the email and he referred me to the governor's communications chief Max Reiss. At the end of the day I got an email from Reiss with an eight-paragraph explanation of the incident from James Rovella, the public safety commissioner. It turns out Mounds called the police about Blacker's email.

At about the same time Tuesday evening that I got the Rovella narrative, a little after 5:30 p.m., Blacker told me he got another text from the police officer who had been trying to get him to come in and give a statement. The tone had changed, and this time, he said, they told him they were only worried about his safety.

Blacker's safety was also the reason given by Commissioner Rovella in his long explanation for the pre-hearing intervention in which, it seemed, Blacker was to be whisked away from the Capitol with a police cruiser escort before the start of testimony about the port authority.

The commissioner's long explanation, which must have taken him a long time to craft, doesn't pass the smell test for me.

Indeed, Blacker said it wasn't until that last text message late in the day that anyone said anything about protecting his safety. He was told in the morning they were investigating a complaint of a threatening email and then went line by line through the text of the email he sent to the governor. He said they never explained why they wanted him to go with them to give a statement.

It is curious that David Kooris, interim chairman of the port authority, finally, after weeks of refusing, disclosed why Evan Matthews, executive director of the port authority, was placed on paid leave this summer.

It related to an interview I had with Matthews after I called to ask about an email he sent Blacker threatening to call the police on him. He added some personal criticism of Blacker in the interview, which I reported.

So if threatening to call police on someone you then say bad things about is grounds for being putting on paid leave, what is the response to actually calling the police on a citizen activist, with an apparent attempt to keep him away from a public hearing?

Unpaid leave?

This is the opinion of David Collins.

d.collins@theday.com

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