Gov. Lamont orders state takeover of West Haven city finances

A state review panel moved swiftly Tuesday, just hours after Gov. Ned Lamont approved a near total state takeover of West Haven’s troubled city finances.
"I have real questions about the controls and documentation there, not to mention the corruption issue,” said Lamont. “And I'm not going to tolerate it."
Lamont ordered West Haven into Tier IV, the highest level of state oversight. Connecticut's Municipal Accountability Review Board must now approve city budgets, as well as major purchases and most contracts.
West Haven’s most recent problems started in October, when federal prosecutors charged Democratic state Rep. Mike DiMassa with using his city position to steal $636,000 in COVID relief funds – some of it allegedly gambled away at Mohegan Sun Resort Casino. In February, DiMassa and three others were indicted on additional charges, now accused of stealing $1.2 million – from the city.
But West Haven’s problems were only beginning.
In April, an outside audit ordered by Lamont found the city misspent 80% of federal COVID dollars, including items like a marching band and even pool supplies. City leaders have disputed those findings.

On Tuesday, MARB rejected the new city budget after 45 minutes of discussion.
"I am really hoping that after decades of not balancing budgets, we're not back there and somebody is saying, 'Let the MARB raise the mill rate,'" said MARB member Robert White, a bankruptcy attorney with Murtha Cullina LLP.

Board members complained the budget had no five-year plan and no long-term plan to pay for proposed police raises.

Mayor Nancy Rossi fought the state takeover in a letter to Lamont last week. During the MARB meeting, she defended the city budget.
"The reason for the delay was because the budget had to go back three different times to the city council after adoption because it was not balanced and there were errors,” she told the panel.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski took to Twitter, calling for Rossi to resign. But once again Tuesday, Lamont stopped short of that.

"I think that's her call, but I think they ought to have a fresh start in West Haven and MARB IV is a big piece of that,” he said.
West Haven City Council now has until June 15 to submit a new budget -- or the state will do it for them. Caught in the middle? Taxpayers. Bills go out July 1 and they still don't know what they'll end up paying.