Log In

Reset Password
  • MENU
    Local Columns
    Monday, March 20, 2023

    OPINION: AG Tong fumbles with empty opinion on port authority

    I am very grateful that federal criminal authorities are closely inspecting the rotting carcass of the Connecticut Port Authority, as spending on its marquee State Pier project soars past a quarter of billion dollars, with no end of cost increases in sight.

    You can’t count on Connecticut government, which created this center of corruption, to do anything. After all, It wasn’t long ago that Connecticut’s chief state’s attorney stepped down amidst a nepotism scandal.

    And Attorney General William Tong, with his botched release Wednesday of an empty opinion on just one aspect of the port authority ethical morass, has proven himself the most inept lawyer I’ve ever seen in that office.

    And I’m old.

    At issue in Tong’s new opinion was a pretty simple question for the attorney general from the state watchdogs at the Connecticut State Contracting Standards Board.

    They wanted to know whether the port authority had the authority to enter into a private/public partnership agreement with utilities Eversource and Orsted for the ill-fated remake of State Pier.

    Tong pretty much completely sidestepped the question.

    I spent some time on the phone Thursday with Joshua Perry, solicitor general in Tong’s office, and we both finally grew tired and gave up on the conversation, after he continually refused to discuss whether the opinion answered the question about the legality of the State Pier partnership.

    It clearly doesn’t.

    The opinion rambles around, talks about how public/private partnerships were once legal before they weren’t, except for those with the Department of Transportation, and notes generally that legislation that created the port authority allows it to enter into partnerships that might be colloquially called public/private.

    The opinion suggests but doesn’t specifically say _ and Perry would not discuss it_ whether the State Pier public/private partnership would be legal under the terms of the legislation that created the port authority.

    But in fact _ and this is really, really, strange _ the attorney general issued a second version of the opinion Wednesday, soon after his office released the first, adding a huge game changer.

    The second, different opinion was released after the first was already published on theday.com.

    The second opinion includes this show-stopping footnote on the first page: “This opinion does not speak to the legality, propriety, or ethics of any particular public-private partnership.”

    In other words, the whole opinion is useless on the question of the State Pier partnership.

    You might as well just print it out, crumple it up and throw it on the floor for your dog to play with.

    Let us all be thankful the feds are investigating.

    Perry insisted Wednesday that the opinion didn’t change and that the footnotes failed to appear on the first released version because of an “administrative” error.

    I find it unacceptable and indeed alarming that the state’s attorney general, with his enormous staff and budget, would issue apparently contradictory opinions within hours of each other. Neither of them fully answers the question at hand.

    You need only to dip into the comments on The Day’s story to understand readers’ head-spinning confusion.

    Someone needs to be fired.

    I would suggest it be the inept and timid attorney general, next time voters have a chance.

    This is the opinion of David Collins


    Comment threads are monitored for 48 hours after publication and then closed.