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State Lawmakers Call For Audit Into Spending of Pandemic Relief Money

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Cities and towns are under scrutiny following the arrest of a Democratic state lawmaker who, according to the federal government, funneled more than $600,0000 in COVID-19 funds to a company he owned. Elected officials want to make sure it didn’t happen anywhere else.

“What I find as an elected official that’s so disappointing is that the trust that we need our public to have in us to make these decisions to spend that money in a responsible and strategic way, and that undermines that trust and that’s so disappointing,” West Hartford Mayor Shari Cantor said.

Cities and towns received several rounds of funding during the pandemic. When all the money is dispersed, towns will have received more than $2 billion. In West Hartford, the mayor says they account for the funding on a monthly basis. 

“I think actually the more oversight the better,” Cantor, a certified public accountant, said.

“I certainly hope it didn’t happen in any other town, but we need it right now because the public trust has been shattered. We need to make sure it never happens again,” Senate Republican Leader Kevin Kelly said.

Kelly said Gov. Ned Lamont’s budget office needs to explain how it’s overseeing this federal pandemic funding following charges against Rep. Michael DiMassa who worked for the City of West Haven. Feds said DiMassa transferred more than $600,000 to a company he owned.

“We need to have more oversight of what this administration is doing, particularly with regard to COVID, it’s administration, management and trust,” Kelly said.

Melissa McCaw, secretary of the Office of Policy and Management, said they already planned to audit the federal funds.

“One of OPM's principle responsibilities during the pandemic is to review the use of federal funds by municipalities and that process will be thorough,” McCaw said.

Sen. Cathy Osten, who is in charge of the spending committee, said when they reconvene in February, they should take a look at stricter oversight of these funds. 

“The legislature has no accountability relative to each of the towns and the boards of ed that have received these dollars directly from the federal government,” Osten said.

The allegations against DiMassa will have consequences for elected officials across the state.

“I’m sure we’re going to have to answer more questions and there might be a little more public interest in what we’re doing,” Cantor said.

She said she was shocked by DiMassa’s boldness to think he “wouldn’t be caught."

"That was pretty shocking to me because it’s pretty easy to track those kinds of things and ask questions," Cantor said.

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