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State grants Amistad America more time to show progress

By Joe Wojtas

Publication: The Day

Published June 13. 2013 4:00AM

A spokeswoman for Attorney General George Jepsen said Wednesday that he has given a short extension to Amistad America to produce copies of its application for reinstatement of its nonprofit status and its audited financial reports.

Jepsen had set the deadline for Monday, but spokeswoman Jaclyn Falkowski said he has granted a few more days, till the end of the week. She said more information may be available on Friday.

The struggling organization that owns the Mystic Seaport-built schooner Amistad lost its tax-exempt status after failing to file federal tax returns three years in a row.

The news comes as state Rep. Diana Urban, D-North Stonington, presses the state Department of Economic and Community Development to detail how Amistad America has spent the $8 million in state taxpayer money that it has received for the construction, maintenance, programming and operation of the vessel.

DECD has not responded to The Day's request for information about how the money has been spent.

DECD has given the ship $1.9 million over the past four years. It plans to pay Amistad America $359,000 a year for the next two years and it made payments this year despite questions from the Internal Revenue Service.

The former New Haven-based organization, which no longer has an office or website, has now moved the Amistad to Maine, where it is being leased to a sail training organization.

In a May 29 email, the DECD told Urban that contrary to The Day's reporting of Amistad America's shaky financial status, "Our findings paint a positive picture ... of a struggling organization finally starting to turn the corner in achieving financial stability."

Except for mentioning three "potentially transformative partnerships," it offered no specifics about how much money the organization would generate for the vessel.


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Rep. Diana Urban is demanding that the state Department of Economic and Community Development justify the continued use of taxpayer money to fund Amistad America. Do you think the state should continue to give money to the organization?
Yes. The story of Amistad is inspirational.
Yes. I loved the Steven Spielberg movie.
No. The funding should stop until the organization can account for how it is spending the money.
No more money until the ship is homeported in Connecticut again.
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