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The good news is that Amistad, the schooner built in Mystic, largely with millions of state of Connecticut money, looks good.
I saw a picture of it in a New Bedford, Mass., newspaper after it made a port call there last week.
Amistad, looking shipshape in the news picture, was on its way north from Puerto Rico, where it was used over the winter in the filming of a new television show with John Malkovich as Blackbeard the pirate, which is due to begin airing later this month.
The caption on the photo from New Bedford says Amistad is on its way to Newfoundland, for the filming of a new documentary.
The bad news is that it went right by and didn’t stop in Connecticut, even though the state of Connecticut continues to wire money into a bank account controlled by the people who spirited the ship away from the state.
I would say the payments are sent to Amistad America, the nonprofit to which Connecticut gave the ship. But let’s be honest, the organization hasn’t filed a tax return for some four years, has no office in Connecticut, no functioning board and has lost its nonprofit status with the IRS.
Somehow, though, the state manages to continue pushing money electronically at the people who took the ship away, to the tune of hundreds of thousands a year. The state wired out $66,346 in January and another $47,000 was due to go out last month, even though there has been no financial accountability for years.
This is really criminal.
Meanwhile, after reports first aired more than a year ago that the organization running Amistad had lost its IRS nonprofit status for not filing tax returns for three years, Malloy administrators huffed a little and ordered up a $78,000 audit of the unexplained Amistad finances.
The audit, to be conducted by the nationwide auditing firm Cohn Reznik, was supposed to be done in November. It’s still not done, and when I checked again last week with the state Office of Policy and Management, which all winter kept saying the audit report is a few more weeks away, the office said it will be a few more weeks.
I wouldn’t hold my breath.
I think it is sad the state has lost a handsome ship that was built so well by the skilled carpenters of Mystic Seaport, a prize celebrating the state’s heritage and the role it played in the abolition of slavery.
I have also come to see the story of the loss of Amistad as an apt metaphor for what’s wrong with the state of Connecticut, a place I used to think of as having a Yankee-efficient government.
I mostly blame the administration of Gov. Dannel Malloy because, really, how shameful is it that they keep wiring funds to an organization that has stopped filing tax returns and has not kept enough records of the millions in state subsidies it has received to even be successfully audited.
There is a combination of gross mismanagement and arrogant denial in this that seems to have become hallmarks of the Malloy administration. Can’t someone admit they were wrong, and fix it?
It makes you understand better why the governor continues to collect such unfavorable ratings in the polls. One wonders why Malloy won’t just fade away this fall, too, like the Amistad.
There’s more blame to go around, of course. I wish Attorney General George Jepsen had some of his predecessor’s spunk. Richard Blumenthal, when he was attorney general, wouldn’t have let them make off with Connecticut’s ship.
Federal lawmakers are to blame, too. Millions in federal dollars, in addition to the $8 million from Connecticut, went down the dark Amistad hole, apparently lost for good.
This is the opinion of David Collins.