The city of West Haven and the FBI are investigating how federal CARES Act funds were used in the city.
West Haven Mayor Nancy Rossi said in a YouTube video posted on the city’s website that she has reviewed many of the city’s federal CARES Act expenditures and came across several large expenditures that concerned her.
“Some of these expenditures appear improper and may be potentially fraudulent,” Rossi said.
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In 2020, West Haven was awarded $1.2 million from the Federal CARES Act to help recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, she said.
The mayor said that as a certified public accountant, it is her ethical and professional responsibility to disclose the issue to residents as the city moves forward with an investigation and audit.
“After reviewing the expenditures, I suspect that some of the funds may have been diverted and not used for the purpose for which they were intended, a thought that sickens me,” Rossi said.
Rossi spoke with the city's independent public accounting firm, which she said, “agreed that these transactions are suspicious and need further investigation.”
“I assure all of our residents that if the investigation proves any wrongdoing and fraudulent activity, I will demand anyone involved be held accountable and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” she said. “If anyone is found guilty they should go right to jail”
Officials at the FBI said they are at West Haven City Hall for the investigation.
The governor's office declined to comment on the investigation.
"It's just a disturbing, concerning thing for residents. And everyone says you know what we've got to do better, we can do better and so that's why I'm hoping for a very very quick resolution to this very sad day," said Barry Lee Cohen, a Republican city councilor who is running for mayor.
"I would like to basically apologize to all the residents of West Haven that this even occurred because you know what, I knew nothing about this as other council people but at the end of the day the buck stops with government and the buck stops at the top," Cohen said.
Two independent accounting firms will audit the Federal CARES Act grant and expenditures and work with law enforcement agencies, the mayor said, and she will ask the city council for approval and funding for a forensic audit.
No additional information was immediately available.
In April 2020, Connecticut was allocated $1.382 billion by the U.S. Department of the Treasury for the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) established by the CARES Act. Information on the rules for those funds is posted online here.