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Federal probe covers all aspects of CT Port Authority operations

A rendering of the State Pier facility in New London after infrastructure improvements in the approved plan. The pier will be an offshore wind hub.
A rendering of the State Pier facility in New London after infrastructure improvements in the approved plan. The pier will be an offshore wind hub.

The Connecticut Port Authority has fully complied with subpoenas from federal and state investigators probing the development of the state pier in New London and other operations, authority Chairman David Kooris said Friday.

In a subpoena issued last March, the U.S. Department of Justice requested all records and correspondence effectively covering all authority business between 2016 and the present.

Kooris said this includes matters related to the development of the state pier to serve as the launching point for a new offshore wind-to-energy project.

Documents provided to federal authorities were related to: Gateway Terminal, the firm selected in 2018 to oversee the pier transformation; Gateway’s former partner, Enstructure LLC; Logistec Connecticut, which was the previous pier operator; Seabury Capital Group of New York, the consultants who helped the authority select Gateway; and the lobbying firm of Gaffney, Bennett and Associates, which represents Ørsted North America and Eversource, developers of the wind turbine project; and various communications firms.

“We have tried to be as transparent as possible in notifying the Board [of Directors] of ongoing investigations while being respectful to the investigating authorities’ requests” to keep information confidential as they collect evidence, Kooris said. “I am confident that we have been very responsive and provided everything they have asked for in a timely manner.”

The existence of the subpoena was first reported by The Day of New London.

Tom Carson, spokesman for the U.S. District Attorney’s Office in Connecticut, said Friday the office neither confirms nor denies whether an investigation is in process.

The CT Mirror first reported in February that federal and state authorities were investigating the pier initiative and other capital projects that had been overseen by Lamont’s former deputy budget director, Konstantinos “Kosta” Diamantis.

A federal grand jury issued a subpoena for all emails, text messages and attachments involving Diamantis and a broad range of construction projects on Oct. 20, eight days before Lamont removed him from his post, which also included oversight of the state’s municipal school construction grants program.

Meanwhile, Kooris has been trying to put out legal and political fires at the port authority since Lamont named him to lead the board as part of a larger overhaul of the quasi-public entity’s operations in July 2019.

One of the largest fires involves the authority’s decision in May 2018 to hire Seabury Capital to help find a new pier operator. It paid Seabury $700,000 for that work, including a $523,000 “success” or reward fee. That happened three months after Henry Juan III of Greenwich — who was a managing director with Seabury — had resigned from the authority board.

The State Contracting Standards Board, a watchdog agency, adopted a report in February that compared this success fee with the “finder’s fees” the General Assembly banned more than two decades ago. That ban followed a scandal in the late 1990s that sent then-state Treasurer Paul Silvester to prison.

And the Office of State Ethics announced in early July that it had fined Seabury $10,000 for providing more than $3,000 in food and gifts —including hockey tickets and an overnight stay at a Greenwich club — to authority officials in 2017 and 2019. This also pre-dated Kooris’ tenure as board chairman.

Kooris also confirmed Friday that state Attorney General William Tong’s office had issued two subpoenas for authority records in October 2021.

One of those subpoenas is tied to an anti-trust investigation that has since closed, Kooris said. This involved Dealy Mahler Strategies of Milford, a communications and marketing firm previously retained by the authority.

Kooris released the federal subpoena as well as the subpoena from Tong’s office involving the closed investigation.

But Kooris declined to release the second subpoena from the AG. Kooris initially said he had been instructed by the attorney general’s office not to do so because an investigation is pending, then he clarified that the attorney general’s office did not give him legal advice – instead, he said, he believes the second subpoena is exempt from disclosure because of the ongoing investigation.

When asked about Kooris’ assertion, Deputy Attorney General Margaret Chapple said Friday only that “the attorney general’s office does not represent the Connecticut Port Authority.”

Chapple declined to comment when asked about any potential investigations pending against the authority.

Kooris added that he is confident the investigations would have no impact on the planned dredging of the Thames River this fall and winter, a key step in preparing the port to support the wind-to-energy initiative.

The New London pier transformation project, including the dredging work, also has come under fire because of escalating costs. Priced three years ago at $93 million, it now is estimated at more than $255 million. Connecticut’s share now stands at $178 million, with $77.5 million coming from private partners.

Editor’s note:

This story has been updated to include a more complete explanation of why David Kooris declined to release the second subpoena from the attorney general’s office.

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