WEST HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — A former West Haven mayor held an “accountability rally” on the steps of City Hall Monday, days after the release of a review by forensic auditors which found nearly $900,000 in federal COVID relief money was misspent by the city due to a lack of financial oversight.
Ed O’Brien served as mayor of the city from 2013-2017, losing to current West Haven Mayor Nancy Rossi after his second term in office. Almost a year ago to the day, O’Brien announced his candidacy bid to reclaim the seat once again. He is asking Rossi to resign.
“She chose the blame game and didn’t know much about what was going on, even though the whole world knew what was going on. When the report came out, I got a lot of calls from residents. We decided to put this rally together and I’m gonna call for her resignation,” O’Brien said.
The Office of Policy and Management (OPM) commissioned the audit and found city officials did not collect proper documentation to attest many expenditures. CohnReznick auditors concluded around 80% of the city’s CRF expenditures in the interim report through Sept. 30 should have been disallowed.
According to the audit, West Haven’s lack of checks and balances is behind most of the misappropriated money.
“I think she changed a lot and I don’t think they followed a lot of the same procedures we followed. When I was in a department head signed a voucher, then it went to the finance department, then it got paid. Hourly employees sign their own vouchers and that started the problem. There’s no checks and balances there,” O’Brien said.
West Haven’s finances are under partial state control through the Municipal Accountability Review Board (MARB). OPM told the board Friday that West Haven may now face a near-complete state takeover of local finances.
Rossi released a statement Saturday, saying she takes the findings of the audit seriously. On Monday, Rossi released a new statement, saying in part:
I understand the outrage from the community, and quite honestly, I am equally outraged. This is embarrassing to West Haven. Proper financial controls have been a problem and ignored in our city for decades. I have made a real effort and some progress on improving the city’s control structure, but, admittedly, not fast enough. I take full responsibility as mayor, but at the same time, I make the commitment to our residents that I will make any needed changes and will facilitate the implementation of any additional financial controls necessary to ensure that something like this never happens again.WEST HAVEN MAYOR NANCY ROSSI
Rossi said Monday some of the issues in the audit report have already been addressed and they will be “drafting and implementing additional controls to satisfy the other noted deficiencies soon.”
Rossi said she has a meeting with MARB Tuesday where they will discuss a comprehensive correction plan. She added Finance Director Scott D. Jackson will be addressing the City Council at its next meeting to provide an update on immediate steps taken and the correction plan going forward.
Read Rossi’s full statement below: