A New York-based maritime consultant and financier has agreed to pay a $10,000 penalty for gifts the company made to employees and a board member of the Connecticut Port Authority in 2017 and 2019 including National Hockey League tickets and overnight stays at a Greenwich club.
The Office of State Ethics announced the fine Tuesday afternoon, ruling that while bidding for port authority business and attempting to establish a long-term business relationship with the quasi-public agency, Seabury PFRA, LLC of Manhattan provided more than $3,100 in gifts in violation of rules.
The hockey tickets cost $675 each.
In a statement, the OSE reported that in 2017, Seabury provided gifts totaling around $800, including food, drinks and a leather personal accessory to an unnamed CPA employee and the employee’s spouse at a charity event for an unnamed college; food, drinks, and an overnight stay at a Greenwich club to that same CPA employee and spouse in August; and food and drinks to a CPA board member on the same date in August of that year.
“During the relevant time period in 2019, Seabury was under contract to advise the CPA and, in addition, was seeking additional contracts with the CPA when it provided gifts totaling around $2,300.00, including food, drinks, and a leather handbag to a CPA employee and the CPA employee’s spouse at a charity event in April 2019; and, food, drinks, and tickets to a National Hockey League game to two CPA employees in May 2019,” the report said.
Neither Seabury nor the Connecticut Port Authority, located in Waterford, immediately responded to requests for comment. Under the consent order and stipulation, the company’s penalty was $2,500 for the 2017 violations and $7,500 for the 2019 gifts. The OSE report noted that prior to its investigation, Seabury was reimbursed for the hockey tickets and the May 2019 food and drinks, but the payment did not occur within 30 days of the gifts, as required by ethics regulations. Other gifts were not reimbursed.
The ethics report does not mention the names of employees and board members involved.
“Private companies that seek to engage state and quasi-public agencies for contracts must understand that fostering good will with state officials and employees cannot involve provision of impermissible gifts.” said Executive Director Peter Lewandowski. “Violation of the Code’s gift laws will be forcefully prosecuted by the Office of State Ethics.”
The port authority in recent years has been troubled by mismanagement and was found in a 2019 audit report to have failed to adopt certain required policies and procedures.
In the summer of 2020, the port authority’s board approved a $523,000 “success fee” to Seabury that was part of a $700,000 payment to the company. The payment followed a disagreement over Seabury’s contract. The State Contracting Standards Board has since questioned the legality of the fee, and raised concerns that a Seabury employee was on the port authority’s board until about a month before the company was hired to find an operator for State Pier in New London.
The port authority has also faced scrutiny for cost overruns involving the state-financed reconstruction of the pier. The redevelopment is among the public construction projects being looked at in connection with the federal investigation into former state budget official Konstantinos “Kosta” Diamantis.
Last month, the State Bond Commission approved what Port Authority officials say will be the last payment of $20 million to finish the $220-million State Pier project, including reconfiguring the pier to become a hub of activity when the wind-power industry begins in the Atlantic Ocean off of Long Island.
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