Heated mayoral debate happens in West Haven as FBI investigates city’s use of COVID-19 relief funds

New Haven

WEST HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Democratic Mayor Nancy Rossi and Republican City Councilman Barry Lee Cohen squared off tonight, vying to be West Haven’s next mayor.

Within minutes of the debate starting, they both addressed the FBI’s investigation into how COVID-19 relief funds were used in the city.

Mayor Rossi vowed they will get to the bottom of it while Councilman Cohen called for greater transparency.

“If there’s found to be wrong-doing or illegal activity, be assured I will make sure the responsible people are held accountable and punished for their actions,” Rossi said.

“Now, we have federal investigations and pending arrests that are scarring our city. Public trust has been broken,” Cohen said.

The debate got heated quickly as the candidates spoke about the investigation.

“We have not heard an apology from you from this whole scandal that’s going on, shame on you,” Cohen said.

During rebuttals, Rossi said “it’s very easy to say things on the record, but no proof, no plan.”

They also outlined their plans and vision for the city.

Rossi said she wants to utilize the beachfront more and revitalize the area, stop illegal dumping and littering and focus on economic development.

“We have many small businesses that come in and small businesses are extremely important,” Rossi said.

Councilman Cohen said he wants to make the downtown free of blight and crime, engage with businesses more and be more accessible to residents.

“I will be forthright. I will be accountable,” Cohen said.

After the debate, News 8 caught up with both Rossi and Cohen to get their final thoughts.

“We’re moving West Haven forward and I want to continue to move West Haven forward. We don’t want to go backwards,” Rossi said.

“We’re going to make West Haven work… work better than before. We can, we will, and we must do better in my administration,” Cohen said.

There isn’t another scheduled debate ahead of Election Day.

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