The Materials Innovation and Recycling Authority (MIRA) will face a Freedom of Information Commission hearing on Monday over an “illegal executive session” that resulted in a “secret contract enhancement” the quasi-public trash and recycling agency handed out to a vendor worth $2.4 million.
The vendor, North American Energy Services, is responsible for major repairs and vendor solicitation for MIRA and the trash incinerator plant in Hartford, which is facing closure.
Matthew Hennessy, managing director of Tremont Public Advisors, a lobbying firm based in Washington D.C. and Connecticut, filed a complaint against MIRA regarding the agency’s board holding an executive session in May of 2021 resulting “in the award of a ‘no-bid’ contract enhancement to MIRA vendor NAES Corporation worth at least $2.4 million,” according to a press release from Tremont.
“At the time of the secret contract enhancement, MIRA was publicly suing NAES corporation in court for multi-million dollar losses by the agency and local municipalities, alleging the ‘gross negligence’ of its employees contributed to the failure of MIRA’s power plant in 2018,” the press release said.
The 2018 failure of MIRA’s trash to energy plant in Hartford caused massive piles of trash to build up and forced MIRA to transport the trash out of state, creating a logjam for municipalities.
While the plant was eventually restored to working conditions, MIRA voted to decommission the plant in July of 2022. However, the plan to shutter the plant and convert it to a transfer station is at odds with Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
MIRA was chided by the FOIC earlier this year over a series of FOI complaints alleging the agency held executive sessions without properly noticing the public on what topic would be addressed in those sessions.
No penalty was imposed on MIRA, however, as the Commission determined the failures to disclose were not “without reasonable grounds,” because board members were acting on faulty legal advice.
A report by the Connecticut Auditors of Public Accounts found NAES had entered into two contracts worth $298,000 without a public bidding process.
“MIRA’s power plant operator NAES Corporation, only obtained quotes from three vendors and selected the preferred vendor and price,” the auditors wrote. MIRA had no comment for the auditors.
According to MIRA’s annual 2022 audit, the agency, while in a healthy financial state, lost 29 municipalities to the private sector, “placing further upward pressure on the disposal fee projections.” The resultant decrease in demand prompted MIRA to shut down two facilities after the close of the fiscal year.