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— A former executive director of the Port of New London is suing the city, accusing officials of using her and her husband as a “stalking horse” to pressure the newspaper to pull a story about a corruption scandal involving a lobbyist who was indicted on fraud and bribery charges.
The lawsuit, filed Friday in federal court in Providence, alleges that city officials pressured the paper to take a story that revealed that former Port Authority Chairman David Samson was under investigation by the FBI and that he had lied about his involvement in the deal to secure approval for a lucrative development in the city.
The city had previously defended the decision to publish the story and insisted it was only after the FBI contacted it and asked to question Samson about the matter.
But the lawsuit says the newspaper “failed to conduct any fact-finding or investigation” and instead relied on a single, “unfounded allegation.”
It alleges that the story, published in a September 27 issue, was based on information provided to the newspaper by an unnamed person who claimed to have worked on the deal and who claimed that Samson had personally approved the development.
The suit claims that Samson’s spokesman, Michael Schoettler, said in an interview the story “was never meant to be a story” and that the city had done nothing wrong.
The case is the latest legal challenge to a massive overhaul of the city’s governance.
Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is barred from running elections that take place in private homes.
The court also blocked the Port from operating a new police department, the agency that oversees it.
The Samson lawsuit, the latest development in a long-running battle over the future of the agency, also raises questions about the independence of the New York City attorney general, who has been trying to persuade a judge to declare the agency a public agency, as well as the legal authority of the mayor, the governor and the police commissioner.
The city’s top court is also considering whether to hear a case brought by the state’s top legal authority, the Attorney General’s Office.
The newspaper has reported on a number of corruption cases, including one involving a top official of the county board of supervisors who was arrested and charged in October for allegedly accepting more than $2 million in bribes and kickbacks.