WEST HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) – The state’s Municipal Accountability Review Board (MARB) voted in favor of the state to take over the City of West Haven’s finances following a major controversy surrounding city officials and Mayor Nancy Rossi.
Rossi was among those who voted “no” Thursday. Following a 30-day public comment period, the recommendation, report of findings, and a report regarding the comments received will be forwarded to Gov. Ned Lamont. The Democratic governor will then approve or disapprove the board’s recommended designation as a Tier IV municipality.
“We have an obligation to the residents of the City of West Haven to step in and exercise as much authority as the law gives us,” said Christine Shaw, who represents the State Treasurer’s Office.
The vote comes after the West Haven City Council voted no confidence in Rossi amid the investigation into the misuse of the city’s COVID-19 relief funds. A state audit found that the majority of the West Haven COVID-19 relief funds spent by the city were misappropriated.
The audit came after state representative and council employee Michael DiMassa was accused of stealing $600,000 in federal COVID-19 relief funds.
“Had the city followed our recommendations, it wouldn’t have been possible for him to have done so,” said Sal Luciano, MARB.
Residents packed a council meeting room Monday night to vent frustration at Rossi, but attendees were shocked once they learned that she would not be in attendance. The City Council voted “no confidence” in Rossi.
Rossi said she had attended a separate conference out-of-state and that is why she was not there. The mayor told News 8 that she has no plans to step down.
Rossi said she has worked hard to get finances under control since taking office.
“Everything was broken… and we did look at the financial end first and we worked very hard on that and I know that we have made major strides on that,” Rossi said.
“I also believe the mayor has worked hard over the last five years to get the city back on its feet,” said City Councilor Mitchell Gallignano.
The city brought in a new finance director, Scott Jackson, to comb through city records. He said things appeared to be proper and accounted for.
“I’ve gone through probably 1,500 different payments in my few weeks here. I’ve never found something to be missing,” Jackson said. “They found some challenging items in there. I do believe that there was some documentation that was not provided to them, so they may have not had everything.”
“I think it’s appropriate that MARB has taken the action they have, which means the state and OPM and the outsiders will be there to be another set of eyes to everything going on in the budget office of West Haven,” Lamont said.
Members of the public who want to submit comments during the 30-day public comment period can mail written comments to:
Office of Policy and Management
Attention: Municipal Accountability Review Board
450 Capitol Avenue
Hartford, CT 06106
Comments can also be emailed to:
email@example.com (include “Public Comment Tier IV” in the subject line and include city or town of residence in comments)