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Gov. Lamont continues to thumb his nose at FOI laws

Wouldn't you like to know whether Gov. Ned Lamont, desperate to spend $235 million to remake State Pier, much of it as a gift to utilities Eversource and Ørsted, might have put his fingers on the scale as state regulators decided whether the enormous project is environmentally sound.

I have heard whispers from environmentalists that the governor brought his influence to bear as the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection reviewed plans to fill in 7 acres of the harbor to build a wind turbine assembly field.

Common sense would make you wonder why DEEP would allow such an enormous impact on the marine environment when many of us assume that DEEP police might come crashing out the woods and slap handcuffs on anyone dumping even a wheelbarrow of dirt in a marsh in their backyard.

I have no evidence of the governor trying to influence the regulatory process. But there is also no proof that he didn't, and that remains, as I write this, his fault.

I made a pretty straightforward request of the governor on March 24 for correspondence between his office and DEEP in regards to State Pier and the Connecticut Port Authority.

The governor's spokesman, moments after I emailed the request, emailed back an acknowledgement that they had received it. That was the last I heard.

I filed a complaint this week with the Freedom of Information Commission that the governor had not provided any of the requested correspondence but also did not respond at all when I submitted the same request again earlier this month.

What's the governor hiding? What did he say to state environmental regulators about State Pier that he is not willing to share with the public, as provided by law?

Honestly, if the correspondence was routine business he should have no problem sharing it. And if it were routine I probably wouldn't end up writing about it.

Instead we have this mystery, a secret.

This isn't the first instance of Gov. Lamont thumbing his nose at FOI laws or even the most flagrant violation.

I filed an FOI request for correspondence between Lamont and his hand-picked chairman of the scandal-plagued port authority after the governor casually disclosed some $43 million in overruns for the State Pier project before the agency itself had ever revealed them. The overruns are now estimated at more than $75 million.

Some eight months later, I still haven't received anything in response to my request, despite mediation attempts by the Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission, where my complaint about the lack of compliance with state law is pending.

This governor apparently only abides by laws he likes.

I'm not the only one that finds this contempt for transparency in government offensive.

"Stop stalling, governor, release emails sought under FOI Act," was the headline of an April 5 editorial in The Day complaining about the governor's lack of compliance. The next day, the Journal Inquirer published my column about the governor flouting FOI law.

"Either Gov. Ned Lamont has something to hide or he doesn't consider compliance with the state Freedom of Information Act a high priority," The Day's Editorial Board wrote in April. "Either explanation is unacceptable. "Maybe it's both."

Two months later, after ignoring scoldings in two state newspapers, the governor is ignoring not one but two straightforward FOI requests.

It seems clear he has no respect for FOI laws. Wouldn't it be nice if we could all decide which laws we want to obey?

And it sure looks like the governor also has a lot to hide when it comes to the port authority and a State Pier project that is drawing on oceans of borrowed state money.

This is the opinion of David Collins.

d.collins@theday.com

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