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Port Authority treated unfairly in columns

I write in response to David Collins to state clearly and definitively that, while he has repeatedly shown his bias against the Connecticut Port Authority and our initiative at the State Pier in New London by writing misleading and untrue statements, I have consistently provided accurate information and fact.

I point to a particularly egregious example when he targeted me on Jan. 6, 2020. His column claimed that I lacked the authority to chair the CPA board. I held an ex-officio seat as deputy commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development, and I had recently announced I was leaving state service. In fact, my resignation wasn’t effective until Jan. 7, and my letter of appointment by the governor to a vacant board seat had already been prepared to enable my continuity on the board beginning that same day.

A simple call would have provided clarification that I remained an ex-officio board member and produced evidence supporting my continuation on the board as a private citizen and my authority to serve as its chair. Collins chose instead to act on a premature and unsubstantiated hunch. While the error was pointed out, I have not yet seen a recant.

While the authority has been careful to correct the record anytime an article by a legitimate reporter includes an inadvertent error – and those at The Day and elsewhere have been quick to make corrections – we gave up early last year trying to counter the opinion of this columnist with fact, as his continued bias would make that a futile and exhausting effort.

Collins’ most recent columns are evidence that this continues to be the case.

Amongst many other correctable claims in his Feb. 4 column is his statement that “no permits have even been granted for construction.” As I stated before the General Assembly’s Transportation Committee on Jan. 29, the port authority already has in hand permits to complete much of the planned upgrades at State Pier. I know Collins heard me make this point since he references that hearing. But acknowledging our progress on permits would undermine his anti-CPA narrative. Information on the permits that we already hold can be accessed from the project website at statepiernewlondon.com/documents.

In his Feb. 8 column, Collins repeats his ongoing efforts to link partial truths together to lead readers along his intended path of bias. We all learned on Feb. 5 of statements made by a member of the Contracts Standards and Review Board regarding a contract between the authority and Seabury Maritime. Unlike Collins, I then went to work with CPA staff on a fact-finding mission to better understand this contract, initiated before my tenure as chairman. Let me shed light on some of the errors in his opinion.

Collins refers to the contract with Seabury Maritime as “strange” and including “a puzzling … fee.” In truth, the engagement terms are typical for the industry. Collins writes that the Office of Policy and Management “would have been available to assist with such procurements.” However, OPM has never been involved with selecting a port operator nor have they negotiated a port concession agreement – a very particular type of agreement.

This columnist further demonstrates his complete lack of understanding of the process by stating that the Seabury contract is the “underlying basis for spending … state money on the port.” In fact, the state expenditure is justified by decades of past studies, and the referenced process will result in private investment of nearly $80 million in our public facility, which was a net new benefit upon which Seabury’s fee was based.

Collins makes statements linking the employment at Seabury of a former authority board member, Henry Juan III, to a purported state Democrat conspiracy. He fails to note Juan was appointed by the Republican Senate minority leader. Juan was not a member of the committee that reviewed and scored RFP responses (including that from Seabury). He was no longer on the board when the recommendation from that committee to hire Seabury came to a vote. Nor did Juan at any point in time “represent” his employer before the board as either listed staff in the proposal, participant in the interviews, or signatory of any resultant contracts.

Though I’ve never met this individual, based on this quick review of facts, it doesn’t appear that any action constituted a conflict of interest.

These columns demonstrate a pattern of hastily written opinions that fall apart when confronted with fact. These examples demonstrate a real story could have been gleaned from basic research. The reader must then wonder, beyond his own obvious bias, on what exactly are this writer’s opinions based?

David Kooris is chairman of the board of the Connecticut Port Authority.

Editor's note: The Day stands squarely behind the accuracy of the reporting of David Collins and in every instance has corrected errors presented to the newspaper.

 

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