Finizio putting the brakes on spending from Wheadon Fund

New London - The mayor has halted distribution from the Wheadon Fund of money for senior programs while the city attorney looks into the way the fund is set up and how the money is being spent.

Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio said Tuesday that he has asked the law department to look into the $600,000 fund since a resident alleged there were attempts to spend the money in ways that were not appropriate.

A committee of city officials, including representatives of the Senior Center, the Senior Affairs Committee, City Council and the finance director, oversees the money.

The fund was established in 2001 by the will of New London resident Jane Wheadon, who died in 2000 at the age of 86 and left $720,000 to the senior center. Finance Director Jeffrey Smith said there is about $600,000 in the account. The committee spends "few thousands dollars a year," he said.

"The amount of money that is supposed to be there is there,'' Finizio said. "I've given instructions that the fund is not to be touched until I see a legal opinion.''

Over the years, interest from the original bequest has been spent on trips, entertainment, and dancing and sewing programs for seniors, according to Cecilia Baxter, a former member of Senior Affairs Committee who started complaining in 2010 about the way the fund was being administered.

She has alleged that the money was misused when the fund was first established in 2001, and more recently that committee meetings were not being held and the public was given improper notification of meetings. She also alleged the committee was not keeping proper minutes of meetings.

"This lovely woman, this Jane Wheadon, left $720,000 for the senior center organization,'' Baxter said Tuesday. "The city was not doing a lot for seniors, and she wanted money for programs. ... We're not going to let anything happen to that money."

Baxter has filed numerous Freedom of Information complaints against the committee set up to oversee the funds. Last year, she filed a judicial misconduct complaint against New London Probate Court Judge Mathew Greene, alleging that he improperly became involved in the trust in 2011.

On Monday, she gave the City Council a report from the Connecticut Council on Probate Judicial Conduct, which found Greene did not have jurisdiction over the fund and had overstepped his authority when he conducted hearings and entered decrees in 2011 regarding the fund.

"Although Judge Greene acted with the best of intentions, the Council finds that his initiation of judicial proceeding, nine years after the Wheadon estate was closed, was well beyond his limited jurisdiction as a Probate Judge,'' wrote William Lavery, chairman of the council.

The judicial council recommended "the New London Probate Court cease all activity regarding the bequest by Jane Wheadon for the benefit of the Senior Center ..."

The report was dated Dec. 28.

Greene could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

k.edgecomb@theday.com

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