Connecticut Port Authority (CPA) members have been unhappy with the tone of much of the press coverage of and public response to the ongoing New London State Pier project.
A review of hundreds of email conversations between staff members reveals they not only kept track of their media coverage but frequently believed it was inaccurate, biased, and unfair to the project and its stewards. These emails were obtained as part of a Freedom of Information Act request seeking answers to the project’s increasing price tag.
A frequent subject of conversation and annoyance for the Port Authority has been coverage from The New London Day, one of the publications most local to the project.
Day Opinion columnist David Collins came under the most frequent and vocal fire from CPA leadership who believe his columns about the State Pier project show a pattern of bias from the writer.
In one instance, Collins wrote a column about road salt company DRVN, who had to vacate their location at the pier after the project was announced. In the initial email, former staffer Andrew Lavigne says that the piece is “riddled with inaccuracies and hyperbole, as usual.” In his response, Port Authority board chairman David Kooris says “as typical, the whole piece includes so many inaccuracies and flawed assumptions that correcting one does little to correct the blatant bias.”
The Port Authority has maintained that DRVN was not forced out, as they claim, but that the company’s lease had ended and they were required to leave.
Port Authority leadership also took issue with articles written by WSHU reporter Brian Scott-Smith. In an email from late December 2021, Kooris said “the bias in this is absurd” in reference to a piece by Scott-Smith discussing the awarding of federal permits.
The primary statements CPA leaders seem to have issue with are claims that the Port Authority missed filing deadlines for the project, which former staffer Andrew Lavigne calls “dead wrong” in his response. Other emails correcting similar statements from CT Insider argue that these “missed deadlines” were actually missed milestone dates from their agreement with NorthEast Offshore.
Another email topic for CPA is certain members of the public who have been extremely vocal in their opposition to the State Pier. Chief among these is Kevin Blacker, who appears in several email exchanges.
In response to an email about an article from Day reporter Greg Smith titled “Chamber of Commerce releases study on opportunities from offshore wind” David Kooris wrote “complete and utter misinformed bs. I would expect nothing more.” That is likely to be in reference to a number of reader comments which were also included in the email and which were specifically noted by Andrew Lavigne in alerting Kooris to the publication.
In other emails, Kooris stated simply that he was frustrated seeing the project referred to as “controversial,” specifically in an op-ed from State Contracting Standards Board member Stuart Mahler.
Controversial, however, seems like an apt turn of phrase for the project which has faced ongoing delays and cost overruns, bringing with it questions from the public and lawmakers who believe it might not be the most responsible use of taxpayer dollars.
It should be noted that in most cases, articles were passed along without comment and that this is only a small selection of emails included in the more than 6,500 documents released to CII by the Port Authority.
CII was unable to determine CPA’s opinion of our articles as the FOIA request spanned a time before we started publishing in April last year.
The document cache received as a result of this FOIA request is available upon request.