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WEST HAVEN, May 13, 2022 — Mayor Nancy R. Rossi has sent a letter to Gov. Ned Lamont defending West Haven’s fiscal management while pledging to cooperate with the state Municipal Accountability Review Board “to improve and strengthen the city’s financial operations.”
On April 14, the MARB voted to recommend advancing the city to Tier IV, the highest level of state oversight allowed under the MARB by state statute.
“Within my first week on the job, I was summoned to a meeting with former (state Office of Policy and Management) Secretary Benjamin Barnes, who informed me that West Haven would come under the oversight of the newly created MARB,” Rossi said in the May 11 letter to Lamont. “The reasoning was the deficit bonding by my predecessor, former Mayor Ed O’Brien, in the amount of about $18 million. Along with deficit bonding, the prior administration ran consecutive operating budget deficits causing the fund balance deficit to balloon from $7.8 million in 2013 to more than $18 million in 2017.”
“Everything was broken in West Haven,” Rossi said.
The mayor continued, “My administration has worked diligently over the last 4 1/2 years to fix the systemic problems that have plagued West Haven for decades.”
Rossi credited the MARB with helping the city deliver four straight balanced budgets with surpluses, in addition to a projected operating surplus in fiscal year 2022.
“The City didn’t use all of the restructuring funds and turned some of the funds back to OPM,” the mayor said. “Our fund balance is positive and growing at more than $6 million. We are recruiting and hiring qualified staff in our finance department and across the city.”
In the letter, Rossi touted the reconstruction of West Haven High School, which is “on time and under budget,” and the construction of a new Washington Elementary School, which is in the design phase.
The mayor also touted beach and parking renovations, a paving and sidewalk replacement program and economic development efforts, including the future headquarters of New England Brewing Co. on the Savin Rock shoreline and a future Hartford HealthCare office in the center of Allingtown.
Rossi also took former state Rep. Michael A. DiMassa to task for his alleged embezzlement of more than $1 million in federal coronavirus relief funding while employed by the city as an administrator for the City Council, which, along with former Finance Director Frank Cieplinski, appointed DiMassa to the position.
“Unfortunately, the (funds) … lacked proper approval and oversight,” the mayor said.
Rossi continued: “MARB has had a financial consultant in West Haven City Hall since 2018 that is working to strengthen the finance operations and to act as a liaison to MARB. If not for the unfortunate alleged illegal activities of this State Representative, West Haven would be celebrating historic success.”
“I do wish the City of West Haven would have had a chance to respond to the CohenReznick Audit ordered by OPM, since many of the items could have been easily explained and rectified,” the mayor said. “With that said, 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.”