A preliminary state audit report released Thursday shows a union charity co-mingled more than $115,000 in philanthropic contributions intended to help first responders, educators and staff associated with the Sandy Hook school shooting.
“It's ghastly to think about what was done and whom this money was taken from,” said state Rep. Mitch Bolinsky (R- Newtown) in a news conference Thursday.
Requested by the House Republican leader and a GOP state representative whose district includes Newtown, where the 2012 mass shooting took place, the auditors found the funds that were mixed with “other sources” rather than segregated in a separate bank account, making it unclear how the United Labor Agency spent the money. The ULA, which took over the fund in 2016, is controlled by the Connecticut AFL-CIO, a labor umbrella organization.
“That money should be in one place, we should know where the money's going we should know who the money's being used for,” Connecticut House minority leader Themis Klarides said in the Thursday news conference.
Reps. Klarides and Bolinsky said they began to question the ULA's handling of the funds earlier this year when two requests for assistance from Newtown officers were allegedly declined.
The Sandy Hook Workers Assistance Program was created by the General Assembly in the aftermath of the mass shooting to help replenish lost wages for union and non-union workers as they dealt emotionally with the tragedy that left 26 dead, including 20 children.
Their audit concluded that ULA did in fact distribute over $6,000 to eligible recipients, but used most of the remaining cash in the fund for "other purposes" that were not identified in the report.
“I am absolutely offended, offended bottom line at this situation, which is people from around the country and around the world gave their money in support of those victims,” said state Rep J.P. Sredzinski (R-Monroe).
The auditors also said the ULA comingled the funds for the program with cash from other sources.
Attorney Eric Chester, a spokesperson for the ULA, said no one who was eligible, was denied assistance through the program under ULA’s watch.
“As soon as the board of the ULA became aware of the audit, it took immediate action to correct the matter,” Chester told NBC Connecticut Thursday. “We will continue to examine the audit and the Connecticut AFL-CIO has put together the funds to make the worker assistance program whole again.”
Connecticut Attorney General William Tong also responded to the audit Thursday saying the matter requires a thorough investigation.