Republicans, Democrats divided over port authority hearing invitees

The ranking Republicans on the General Assembly's Transportation Committee this week extended invitations to several Connecticut Port Authority officials, who have not been asked by the Democratic chairs of the committee, to attend a Dec. 4 forum on the authority.

Republicans Sen. Henri Martin and Rep. Laura Devlin sent invitations to ousted office manager Gerri Lewis; Andrew Lavigne, who oversees business development and special projects; Diane Wolff, a human resources consultant; Casandra Berthiaume, fiscal administrative supervisor, and state Comptroller Kevin Lembo, who has raised concerns about the port authority's reporting of its financial information.

"We need all voices at the table to fully understand the issues so we can best address them and rebuild public confidence," Martin and Devlin said in a statement this week.

Democrats Rep. Roland Lemar and Sen. Carlo Leone, co-chairs of the committee, invited former board members and the two most recent chairs of the board to speak at the forum Scott Bates, who has said he will attend, and Bonnie Reemsnyder, who has declined to comment on her attendance, and have said they also plan to ask former executive director Evan Matthews to appear.

Lemar and Leone in a statement this week called the request by their Republican colleagues unnecessary.

"We remain focused on finding solutions and getting answers to ensure the state's vital Port Authority fulfills its purpose to assure its future success," Leone said.

Lemar echoed his sentiment, saying "we are committed to finding viable solutions to address the concerns before us."

The forum follows the release of a state audit showing questionable spending and operating practices at the quasi-public agency, which receives about $400,000 annually in state appropriations.

j.bergman@theday.com

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