23 lawmakers sign letter calling on Amistad America to set date for plan to repay businesses

Twenty-three members of the state legislature have signed a letter penned by state Rep. Diana Urban, D-North Stonington, that calls on Amistad America to set a date by which it will have a plan in place to repay seven small businesses to which it has owed money for years.

Addressed to attorney Charles Filardi Jr. of New Haven, who is handling Amistad America’s debts, the five senators and 18 representatives said they are looking forward to working with him to ensure the businesses are paid in full.

“After all, the taxpayers of the state of Connecticut have duly funded the Amistad every year, including the initial construction of the boat. It is incomprehensible that small businesses, the backbone of our community economic web, would not be the first to be paid out of the (annual) state appropriation,” states the letter.

The letter states that not being paid can be devastating to small businesses that have committed resources to Amistad America.

The businesses are identified as BMTees of Norwich, CGS Business Financial Services of New Haven, Tall Ship Celebration of  Bay City, Mich., JMS Naval Architects LLC of Mystic, Benjamin Carlson of Old Lyme, Custom Marine Canvas of Noank and R & W Rope of New Bedford, Mass.

The letter thanks Filardi for the two “good faith payments” of $500 that Amistad America has made to BMTees, which is owed $7,000.

Until recently, Urban had been the lone legislator calling for an accounting of how Amistad America had spent $8 million in state funding. The financially troubled organization lost its nonprofit status after it failed to file tax returns for three years. Despite the question about Amistad America’s finances, the state continued to give funding to the organization. A long-delayed state audit of how the organization spent its state money is nearing completion.

Early this month, state Sen. Len Fasano, R-North Haven, called for the state to cease payments to the organization.

The state then announced that it has suspended the $400,000 in annual payments to the organization until the audit is complete.

In addition to Urban, those signing the letter were state representatives Betsy Ritter, 38th District; Ed Jutila, 37th District; Elissa Wright, 41st District, Ted Moukawsher, 40th District; Tim Bowles, 42nd District; Emmett Riley, 46th District; Kevin Ryan, 139th District; Linda Orange, 48th District; James Albis, 99th District; Pat Widlitz, 98th District; Tim Larson, 12th District; Matt Ritter, 1st District; Peggy Sayers,  60th District; Susan Johnson, 49th District; Ed Vargas, 6th District; Linda Gentile, 104th District and Jack Hennessey, 127th District.

Senators signing the letter were Andrea Stillman, 20th District; Andrew Maynard, 18th District; Cathy Osten, 19th District; Paul Doyle, 9th District, and Edward Meyer, 12the District.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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