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Gov. Lamont flouts Freedom of Information law

I don't know — but I can guess — what Gov. Ned Lamont doesn't want us to learn from withheld communications between his office and his hand-picked chairman of the scandal-plagued Connecticut Port Authority.

After all, it was the governor himself who disclosed that the cost of port authority renovations at State Pier, crafted for utilities Eversource and Ørsted, has shot up a cool $43 million even before the authority made public the overruns, which state taxpayers will be responsible for paying.

Clearly Lamont is closely involved with the port authority's project, which could end up as a subsidy of $150 million or more made for the utilities without a single study or cost/benefit analysis of what kinds and how many jobs it might create. What we do know without a study is that the project already has eliminated dozens of jobs and put people out of work.

But not wanting to come clean with the public is different than ignoring Freedom of Information laws that require even a governor with kinglike COVID-19 powers — able to give no-bid contracts to publicists who have done political work for him — to comply.

I made a pretty simple request last September for emails between Lamont's office and David Kooris, chairman of the port authority.

I still haven't received them more than six months later, the time it's taken for Connecticut trees to change color, lose their leaves and bud again.

There might be a few things in those emails that could be legitimately redacted. But they are clearly public documents that should be produced in a timely way, and the governor is brazenly ignoring the law requiring transparency in government.

This lack of openness by Gov. Lamont is especially troubling given the subject, with an active investigation of whistleblower allegations regarding the port authority by Attorney General William Tong and an apparent review by the Connecticut Office of State Ethics.

It also reminds me of recent comments by the Connecticut State Contracting Standards Board, a watchdog agency acting on complaints against the port authority, which reported one document requested from the port authority was so heavily redacted, it couldn't be read.

Come on, governor, it's our money and we have a right to see these things.

The last I heard back anything directly from the governor's office about the requested communications was an email from the governor's press liaison, Max Reiss, to whom I wrote in November asking about the status of my formal FOI request.

"I'm raising this with our legal team," he wrote back Nov. 18.

And then I heard nothing more.

Meanwhile, a complaint I filed with the state Freedom of Information Commission about the governor's lack of compliance has been working its way through the agency's overworked, backlogged system.

As part of that process, the commission assigns a resolution advocate to try to bring the two sides together and avoid a full hearing on the complaint about lack of compliance.

Danielle McGee, the FOI attorney assigned to the case in February, says attorneys for the governor say they are working on it.

"I sent another follow up this week and have not heard anything," McGee wrote to me Thursday.

I can't help but think that this is the governor whose staff made a complaint that resulted in port authority critic Kevin Blacker being detained by state police in a windowless office of the General Assembly before he was expected to testify in a public hearing.

Blacker was subsequently contacted by the head of state police and eventually arrested by the Eastern District Major Crime Squad on a felony charge based on an inflated estimate of damages caused by his civil disobedience.

And yet this governor arrogantly ignores a law establishing a basic premise of transparency for our open system of government.

This is the opinion of David Collins.

d.collins@theday.com

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