Port Authority releases documents related to director's departure

In a letter dated July 12, former Connecticut Port Authority Chairwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder notified executive director Evan Matthews that he was being placed on leave “as the result of a serious matter involving your conduct that came to my attention yesterday.”

Reemsnyder does not detail specifics of the “matter” in the letter, obtained Friday by The Day. The letter was one of the documents released by the authority to satisfy a July 16 Freedom of Information Act request from The Day for documents related to Matthews.

The Day’s request had been made to help decipher what was happening at the Port Authority at the time. Much has happened since.

The Port Authority confirmed on July 18 that Matthews was on leave. On Aug. 20, current Port Authority Chairman David Kooris revealed that the reason for Matthews’ was placed on leave was “conduct unbecoming a public sector leader,” related to comments to the media.

Matthews made what many consider a disparaging comment about frequent port authority critic Kevin Blacker to The Day's columnist David Collins. Matthews had also considered Blacker’s emails harassing and threatening.

Matthews' comment about Blacker was published July 11, a day before he was placed on leave. Matthews told Collins, “There is something off about him. He either has autism or there is something about him that is anti-social.”

Until Friday, the Port Authority had blocked The Day’s FOI request and claimed the documents were exempt due to the fact the information constituted a portion of Matthews’ personnel file and a possible invasion of privacy. Matthews had filed an objection to the disclosure but said in a Sept. 6 letter to Kooris that he had never even reviewed the documents being withheld.

“While I do not have access to the records in question, based on the information I do possess, there are many unsubstantiated claims regarding my performance as Executive Director that would be harmful to my reputation and highly offensive to a reasonable person,” Matthews wrote.

Matthews, who has since resigned from the port authority, recently withdrew his objection following a complaint by The Day with the state Freedom of Information Commission. Matthews, who released a statement following the release of a state audit into port authority finances, declined further comment.

Released on Friday was Reemsnyder’s letter, a one-page memo from Port Authority employee Joseph Salvatore, two emails from Blacker and a few correspondences between Kooris and Matthews about pending FOI requests.

In Salvatore’s memo, he said Matthews apologized for the comments he made to The Day and Matthews argues that Blacker’s emails should be considered threatening.

Blacker has filed an FOI complaint similar to The Day's against the Port Authority and said Monday he intends to take his complaint to a hearing.

Blacker remained skeptical that Matthews’ comments about him are the only reason for Matthews’ placement on leave.

Blacker points out that Matthews, before being placed on leave, had negotiated a separation agreement with the authority's office manager, Gerri Lewis. A financial audit of the port authority has since revealed that port authority salaries, legal and consulting costs had mushroomed in recent years and auditors noted several deficiencies traced to a lack of oversight by port authority management.

Two port authority members, Reemsnyder and former chairman Scott Bates, have since resigned. Reemsnyder could not be reached to comment.

g.smith@theday.com

 

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