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Embattled port authority to face questioning from lawmakers

State lawmakers will get to question representatives of the Connecticut Port Authority, which has been mired in controversy, at a forum Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. in Room 1E of the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.

"This isn't a legal proceeding or formal inquiry," said Rep. Roland Lemar, D-New Haven, co-chair of the General Assembly's Transportation Committee, which is convening the forum.

Rather, he said, it's the first step by lawmakers to get more information on the agency as they consider what to do next or whether any action is necessary, such as changes to prior legislation.

"There's a number of issues that may require additional work in the next few weeks and months," Lemar said.

State auditors are expected to discuss the findings of their most recent audit of the port authority, which covers fiscal years 2016 and 2017. The audit, which found the port authority had poor accounting practices in place and was not in compliance with statutory reporting requirements for quasi-public agencies, was released in May.

The current, ongoing audit of the agency, which will cover fiscal years 2018 and 2019, and which includes a review of a whistleblower complaint alleging misuse of funds, will not be discussed at the forum.

Paul Mounds Jr., the state's chief operating officer, will provide remarks on behalf of the governor's office, and David Kooris, acting chair of the port authority's board and deputy commissioner of the state Department of Economic and Community Development, will answer questions on behalf of the agency.

The public will not have an opportunity to comment at the forum.

The forum follows the resignation of two port authority board members, who also served as chair, Bonnie Reemsnyder, Old Lyme's first selectwoman, and Scott Bates, deputy secretary of the state. Executive Director Evan Matthews still is on paid leave for undisclosed reasons.

Gov. Ned Lamont recently announced a series of measures to provide greater oversight of the port authority, and earlier directed Mounds, and his chief of staff, Ryan Drajewicz, to perform a review of all the state's quasi-public agencies in response to issues at the port authority and the Connecticut Lottery.

Meanwhile, negotiations continue between the parties, including the port authority, involved in the $93 million public-private project to transform State Pier in New London into a hub for the burgeoning offshore wind industry, in which states in the northeast are vying to stake a claim.

Lamont has requested the board hold off on any business that doesn't involve the offshore wind deal while the reviews are underway.

j.bergman@theday.com

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