The Secretary of the State’s office is defending Deputy Secretary Scott Bates as evidence grows about his role in questionable decisions at the Connecticut Port Authority.
Recent reporting from The Day of New London has led to a shakeup within the Connecticut Port Authority.
Scott Bates gave up his seat on the board last week, after it was revealed that in 2017, he approved the purchase of photographs to be mounted in port authority offices in Old Saybrook – about $3,000 in artwork bought from the daughter of the CPA chairwoman. That chairwoman, Bonnie Reemsnyder, has also stepped down.
Prior to those changes happening at the CPA, executive director Evan Matthews was placed on leave.
Connecticut Senate Republican president Len Fasano believes that the recent shakeup raises questions about governance within the port authority and other quasi-government entities.
“Quasi-corporations are created by state statutes in which we try to give them some independence, but at the end of the day, it’s taxpayers’ money,” Fasano said. “We as legislators -- and the quasi as a representative of us – need to make sure that everything’s on the up-and-up.”
He said he's seen a more aggressive approach by Governor Ned Lamont than by previous administrations to rein in excesses at quasi public administrations.
"As far as Scott Bates is concerned, I'm glad he resigned, but there's much more to do," said Fasano. "We've got to find out how are we going to fix it?"
Fasano also said public confidence should be a consideration for Secretary of State Denise Merrill as Bates continues on with his work as her deputy. Fasano said that any cloud of suspicion hanging over Bates could be problematic, particularly with the office’s need for objectivity in overseeing elections.
A spokesperson for Secretary of State Denise Merrill issued a written statement to Connecticut Public Radio.
“Scott is an important member of the staff whose responsibilities include the creation of the state’s Cybersecurity Task Force, the complete reorganization of the office to save taxpayer money, and travelling to each of Connecticut’s 169 towns to meet with the town clerks and registrars of voters of both parties,” said Gabe Rosenberg, Merrill’s communications director.
Rosenberg went on to say that none of the recent reports would impact what Bates has done for the office and that Bates has done “an excellent job for the voters of Connecticut.”
Bates in his role as deputy secretary of state made $149,784 last year, according to the state’s open payroll web portal.