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Lamont OKs greater state oversight of West Haven finances

May 17, 2022 GMT

WEST HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — Gov. Ned Lamont gave the go-ahead on Tuesday to increase state oversight of West Haven’s troubled finances.

Lamont said there’s been an “obvious lack of fiscal controls” in the city, which has been under the microscope after a former state representative and others were accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars of the community’s COVID-19 relief funds.

The Democratic governor approved recommendations recently made by the state’s Municipality Accountability Review Board to upgrade the city from a Tier III to a Tier IV municipality, giving the board the highest level of control over the city’s finances. MARB will now have the power to approve budgets, contracts, labor agreements and other matters.

“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,” Lamont said in a written statement. “This decision is a direct result of the fiscal mismanagement in the city that has gone on for too long.”

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City officials, including the mayor, have opposed the move. They argued last month that West Haven, which has a long history of financial struggles, has made progress in recent years since working with the state board. They contend the city of more than 55,000 people didn’t meet the criteria for such a severe step.

But board members countered that the alleged theft of COVID-19 funds would not have occurred if proper financial safeguards recommended by the board were put in place.

Asked Tuesday whether he still has faith in Democratic Mayor Nancy Rossi’s leadership of West Haven, Lamont said he believes it’s “time for a change.” Rossi has said she has no plans to resign.

“I think it has been a while. I think the people of West Haven probably deserve a fresh start,” he said. “I think ‘MARB IV’ is a fresh start, but she is independently elected by the people of West Haven, and that’s their call.”