Gov. Ned Lamont Tuesday approved the recommendation of the Municipality Accountability Review Board (MARB) to have the state provide the greatest level of state oversight of West Haven's finances allowed under state law.
The move designates West Haven as a Tier IV municipality.
The city has been under the microscope after a former state representative and others were accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in COVID-19 relief funds awarded to the municipality.
The MARB voted to recommend the Tier IV designation in April. That means the state board would have additional management tools, including the ability to hire a financial manager for the city and greater approval powers in regard to budgets, transfers, contracts, debt, and labor contracts, according to Lamont's office.
“As detailed in the MARB report, there is an obvious lack of fiscal controls in West Haven and it is necessary for the state to step in and provide the oversight and accountability that the residents of the town and the state deserve,” Gov. Lamont said. “This decision is a direct result of the fiscal mismanagement in the city that has gone on for too long. Taxpayers deserve to have confidence that their money is well spent, and the stringent oversight that a Tier IV designation provides will allow the state to provide the tools necessary to address this situation.”
City officials, including Mayor Nancy Rossi, opposed the move. They argued that West Haven, which has a long history of financial struggles, has made progress in recent years since working with the state board.
Board members countered that the alleged theft by former Democratic Rep. Michael DiMassa, an aide to the West Haven City Council at the time, and others, would not have occurred if proper financial safeguards recommended by the board were put in place.
NBC Connecticut could not reach Mayor Rossi for a statement, but she did post a statement online prior to the governor's announcement.
"I will guarantee full cooperation from the City of West Haven as we move forward with MARB under TIER 4 to continue to improve and strengthen the City’s financial operations,” Rossi said.
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