Head Of Connecticut's Port Authority Placed On Leave | Connecticut Public Radio

Head Of Connecticut's Port Authority Placed On Leave

Jul 18, 2019

Evan Matthews, head of the quasi-public agency responsible for promoting investments in Connecticut’s three deepwater ports, has been placed on administrative leave. 

The news comes as the state continues work to finalize a $93 million public-private investment in New London’s State Pier. 

In May, Governor Ned Lamont billed the New London project as a transformative step forward for Connecticut’s maritime economy and the burgeoning offshore wind industry. 

The partnership included Gateway, which is the operator of New London’s State Pier, and Bay State Wind, a joint venture between Eversource and wind energy company Ørsted. 

It also included the quasi-public Connecticut Port Authority, where Matthews was serving as executive director. 

Right now, it’s unclear who is in charge. When asked who is now running the agency, CPA issued this statement, “We have a professional staff and a fully populated and qualified board that are more than capable of maintaining the organization’s direction and progress while a single staff member is on leave.”

It’s also unclear exactly why Matthews was placed on leave. One possible cause is a chain of emails between Matthews and Kevin Blacker, a Noank resident who has been an outspoken critic of the Connecticut Port Authority.

In a July 10 email, Matthews wrote to Blacker citing his “repeated requests for information.” 

He also told Blacker, “This is not the first time you have threatened the staff with violence.”

“I would welcome the Attorney General and the state police to investigate your escalating rhetoric and innuendo of violence against the public servants who work for the CPA, who are simply doing our jobs pursuant to the power and authority vested to us by the State of Connecticut,” Matthews wrote.

Mr. Blacker denied making any threats. “I have absolutely not threatened any CPA staff with violence nor made any innuendo's of violence and I resent that you imply that I have,” Blacker responded, in an email to Matthews.

In an email Thursday, Governor Lamont’s Director of Communications Maribel La Luz, confirmed the personnel change. 

“The Connecticut Port Authority Board has informed the Governor’s office that the current Executive Director has been placed on administrative leave and an interim director has been appointed,” La Luz wrote.

La Luz said the replacement does not impact any of the ongoing efforts to develop the offshore wind facility in New London. Those efforts include millions of dollars in promised construction investments touted as transforming State Pier into a vital hub for the burgeoning offshore wind industry. 

The $93 million deal announced in May would fund investments to outfit the port with equipment to accommodate and lift heavy components used in offshore wind turbines on the east coast.

“The details of the State Pier construction project are to be outlined in a Harbor Development Agreement (HDA), which is currently being ironed out in close coordination with our partners,” a spokesperson for the Connecticut Port Authority said in an email. “Once the specifics of the new State Pier design are agreed upon, and appropriate permits are acquired, we will move ahead, as planned, with construction.”

In a statement, Eversource and Ørsted said, “Eversource and Ørsted remain committed to the future of offshore wind development at the New London State Pier. We look forward to finalizing our definitive agreement with the CPA shortly and proceeding with permitting and construction expeditiously.”

May estimates from Lamont’s office placed construction start dates in January.