McAuliffe moves to shake up port board

Published 9:54 pm Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The administration of Gov. Terry McAuliffe is reviewing the Virginia Port Authority board after discovering the port has been losing more money than its officials reported, according to Rachel Thomas, his traveling press secretary.

After authority CEO John Reinhart, in the State of the Ports 2014, reported deficits of $85.8 million for the past five full fiscal years, “additional work” overseen by Aubrey Layne, the new transportation secretary under McAuliffe, found “there was actually a larger cash deficit,” Thomas wrote in an email.

That larger deficit equaled about $120 million for the same five-year period, according to Thomas.

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“The Governor has significant concerns about the operating losses incurred by the port,” she wrote. “He is focused on making sure the state’s support to the port is a sound investment and that the port is a sustainable operation.”

News of the larger financial losses comes amid a steady stream of monthly cargo volume reports from the port authority that present a different picture, with throughput frequently breaking records.

Working with “third party consultants,” Layne’s office also discovered a non-compliance with the requirements of debt agreements, Thomas continued, “but measures have already gone into place to correct this.”

It has also surfaced that APM offered to sell its APM Terminals Virginia to the state under the previous McDonnell administration.

“When Governor McAuliffe came into office and reviewed the offer, the administration concluded that the specific offer was too high to buy at that price,” according to Thomas.

Just outside North Suffolk off the Western Freeway, APM Terminals Virginia is billed as the most technologically advanced marine cargo facility in the Americas. But the McAuliffe administration has also taken issue with the terms of the lease the authority signed in 2010 to operate it for 20 years:

“The governor and Secretary Layne believe the contract was poorly negotiated on the state’s behalf and are currently evaluating options on how to improve the situation,” Thomas wrote.

Thomas indicated that a shake-up of port stewardship could be in the works, reporting that the administration is “conducting a thorough review of the current board and will make any changes they see fit to ensure that the issues with the port are being addressed.”

Though he and Secretary Layne “are concerned about performance of the port in recent years,” and are committed to ensuring it is a sound investment for taxpayers in the future, McAuliffe “believes the Port has a significant role to play in Virginia’s economic growth and is a tremendous asset in making Virginia competitive in a global economy,” according to Thomas.