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Has Lamont twisted the port authority out of existence?

In his zeal to seal his $93 million secret deal to transform New London's port, Gov. Ned Lamont has ignored the state law that establishes the governance of the Connecticut Port Authority.

One wonders, once the gavel comes down precipitously, as planned next week, on a State Pier deal that the public has never seen, how easy it would be for someone to eventually challenge it in court, given the loose adherence to — or even defiance of — Connecticut law.

The authority's board, which by law is supposed to be controlled by political appointees named by the governor and legislative leaders, with minority input from state agency commissioners, is now essentially a protectorate of the governor's office.

There are three appointed board members who continue to serve even though their terms have expired. There are two vacancies that have been left unfilled, long after the 30-day limit for filling them set out in the law that established the agency.

"Any vacancy occurring other than by expiration of term shall be filled not later than 30 days following the occurrence of such vacancy," the law reads.

But who cares that they've been left unfilled, when you're the governor and you want to limit votes and board participation and certainly public discussion on a secret deal you plan to ram through the agency, one that will help make many people rich, on the backs of Connecticut electric ratepayers?

Two of the appointed board members, not the ex-officio members that represent the Lamont administration, seated by right of their state agency jobs, have abstained or recused themselves from previous votes regarding the remake of State Pier.

That means the governor, given the vacancies and conflicts on the appointed side of the board, will almost certainly be able to control the outcome with leverage of ex-officio board votes when the secret deal is unveiled and put to a quick and final tally. This is precisely the opposite of the intent of the legislation that created the agency, which was meant to be controlled by appointed board members who would outnumber administration officers two to one.

The agency has lacked an executive director, as required by law, since last summer. But, of course, an executive director reporting to a legitimate, legally empowered board would only make it more difficult for the governor to do anything he wants.

The thinly populated port authority board also is in violation of the port authority's own bylaws, as set out under Connecticut statutes, that dictate there be two elected or appointed officials from coastal municipalities. There is now none.

But who cares if you are ignoring the law and have no required local representation when you are making deals to forever transform a historical port?

This is the new Connecticut, run by a rich prince of Fairfield County, evidently largely on behalf of the investors who stand to profit most from the riches of wind deals.

The announced plan for next week's board meeting is to also finally disclose the findings of an independent outside audit and examination of the processes of the scandal-ridden port authority, at the same meeting the illegitimate board votes on what could be the most consequential decision the agency has or will ever make.

Couldn't we first hear the results of the outside audit?

Of course not. There's a lot of money to be made here. Why make it messy with an audit report further outlining the corruption and law breaking that got the agency this far?

Just this week, the governor thumbed his nose at Freedom of Information laws, claiming, incredibly, that his administration does not have a copy of the signed memorandum that lays out his promise of $35 million in borrowed state money. The governor, under pressure, finally released the framework memorandum for the State Pier deal Tuesday evening after deadline, some five weeks after it was formally requested.

If this is such a good deal, why can't it be done in the open, with a legally constituted agency with the public involved and aware of the details, with the lawful input of lawmakers from both parties and their appointees?

Where, you might ask, is state Attorney General William Tong, as this legal sham unfolds. In the governor's pocket, apparently, a Democratic puppet who cares more about party loyalty than the laws that are being ignored.

A lot of Democratic lawmakers, including those representing eastern Connecticut, have apparently been similarly gagged.

This is the opinion of David Collins.

d.collins@theday.com

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