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State Comptroller Says Three Quasi-Public Agencies Blocking Transparency Efforts

Chion Wolf
/
WNPR
Comptroller Kevin Lembo

A state official is trying to get quasi-public agencies to be more transparent, but that's proving to be a bit difficult.

These quasi-public agencies are privately run but they provide public services, and they're supposed to operate with some government oversight.

State Comptroller Kevin Lembo wants them to provide checkbook-level financial information. But in a recent letter to the governor, he said three quasi-publics are not cooperating.

“The three that were listed in the letter were either folks who refused to speak with us at all about it, or ones that refused to participate, or ones that set up unnecessary road blocks," Lembo told Connecticut Public Radio. 

That's not how Karl Kilduff remembers things. He heads the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority, one of the agencies named in Lembo's letter.

“I wouldn't say we are ignoring the request," Kilduff said. "We are trying to get to a point where we're giving information that's beneficial to the public."

Lembo said he started this process two years ago, and the information he’s asking for would take about 20 minutes to generate.

“Now time’s up," Lembo said. "Those last remaining organizations need to know that the people of Connecticut want greater transparency.”

Kilduff pointed out that his office is already providing budget level data to the Office of Policy Management, or OPM.

"We provide reporting to OPM on a fairly regular basis on what our finances are, so this would be a redundant effort," Kilduff said.

What would be new, Kilduff said, is how the data would be presented to the public -- through the OpenConnecticutonline portal, created by Lembo’s office.

Lembo says he's only heard from one of the three agencies named in the letter -- the Connecticut Port Authority.  Scott Bates, chairman of the port authority's board, said his staff has been busy focusing on other projects, but this is now a top priority.

"We have about $40 million worth of construction projects going on up and down the shoreline in Connecticut," Bates said. "That's kind of consumed our efforts. But now, this is top of the list today. I said that to the comptroller... and I apologize for not answering his letter from a couple months ago."

The third agency named in the letter is the Capital Region Development Authority. A representative has not responded to an emailed request for comment. 

There are 15 quasi-public agencies in Connecticut. The state has little control over how they spend money, though they are subject to open records laws.

David finds and tells stories about education and learning for WNPR radio and its website. He also teaches journalism and media literacy to high school students, and he starts the year with the lesson: “Conflicts of interest: Real or perceived? Both matter.” He thinks he has a sense of humor, and he also finds writing in the third person awkward, but he does it anyway.

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