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    Sunday, June 16, 2024

    Lamont’s DECD chief David Lehman: From national mortgage crisis to harassing eastern Connecticut

    Consider how David Lehman, in Connecticut legislative confirmation hearings on his 2019 appointment as Gov. Ned Lamont’s commissioner of economic development, described his role in the Great Recession.

    Lehman, a former managing director of Goldman Sachs, was a leading player in the toxic mortgage meltdown of 2007-2008, which led to the nation’s economic collapse.

    “I did not know, at the time, that those (mortgage) securities were going to be worthless,” he told Connecticut lawmakers. “I understand, with the benefit of hindsight, you know, the significant decline in security prices and home prices and the pain that caused to the economy. But I did not know that at the time.”

    I didn’t get such a mea culpa from Lehman when I asked him Tuesday how the state Department of Economic and Community Development, under his direction, has come to the point of planning to give away the valuable former Mystic Oral School property, with - incredibly - no promises secured about how it will be developed.

    After all, what was the point of even having a bidding process and vetting potential developers of the oral school property if in the end you were just going to give it away with no strings attached?

    And of course the potentially harmful repercussions for Groton, giving away the magnificent property, to someone convicted by mob prosecutors in New York of bribing public officials, are yet to be seen.

    Maybe some day Lehman will be able to acknowledge and apologize for the yet-uknown pain to Groton taxpayers that will come from the state giving away such a large and crucial property with no idea how it might eventually be developed.

    This isn’t the first time Lehman’s disastrous stewardship of DECD has negatively impacted the people of Groton.

    It was the DECD commissioner’s ill-conceived scheme to lure tax-free data centers to Connecticut, with emergency legislation that excluded the public from usual legislative reviews, that led to data center real estate speculators targeting Groton and its local electric utility.

    We all know how hard concerned residents and environmentalists had to work to fend off the data center opportunists ― people, bogged down in lawsuits and bankruptcies, who had never developed a data center ― that Lehman and his tax-free plans unleashed on the town.

    The taxpayers of New London also have a big bone to pick with Lamont’s commissioner from the Great Recession mortgage crisis.

    I learned, from emails secured in a hard-fought Freedom of Information skirmish with the governor’s office, that Commissioner Lehman chose sides with the rich utilities and not the people of New London as the city’s mayor was trying to extract a local host agreement for the use of State Pier.

    Lehman said New London Mayor Michael Passero should have accepted the paltry offer that was on the table from utilities instead of asking for more. Lamont seemed to concur with the commissioner and only intervened after the mayor moved with lawyers to try to derail the project.

    “Had another call with (New London Mayor Passero) last night - he requested a meeting next week,” Lehman wrote in an email, not long after he met with Orsted officials to discuss the host deal with New London. “I told (the mayor) he is supposed to play the Long Game here on WIND and the current deal is very good for the city.”

    Once again, Lamont and his commissioner from the world of big banking sided with rich corporations or opportunistic developers over the taxpaying people of Connecticut.

    Thankfully, Passero fought hard for what the people of New London deserved, even if it meant challenging the sitting Democratic governor. His threat of legal intervention worked where raw political diplomacy, appealing to the governor and commissioner to do the right thing for Connecticut taxpayers, didn’t.

    There aren’t many other elected Democrats in Connecticut willing to do that.

    We will see that proven once again soon, as elected Democrats will likely sit around and let a star participant in the Great Recession mortgage crisis give away a valuable state property in Mystic to someone convicted of bribing public officials.

    This is the opinion of David Collins


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