Top Stories 2016: Lavish Kentucky Derby trips

This is the third of 10 vignettes about the top local stories of the year, as chosen by the staff of The Day.

Controversy erupted this fall over revelations that the Connecticut Municipal Electric Energy Cooperative hosted lavish trips to the Kentucky Derby for dozens of board members, staff, municipal leaders and guests for the past four years. The trips cost a total of $1.02 million, including $342,330 in 2016 for 44 participants, which included Norwich Mayor Deberey Hinchey and former Groton City Mayor Dennis Popp.

Five ethics complaints are pending in Norwich, two against Hinchey and one each against trip attendees Norwich Public Utilities General Manager John Bilda and utilities commission Chairwoman Dee Boisclair and Vice Chairman Robert Groner. One undisclosed ethics complaint is under investigation in Groton City. The FBI also asked for information from CMEEC and its member utilities.

In response, the CMEEC board of directors passed new rules requiring future retreats to be held in the Northeast and to include specific utility business or workshops. The derby trips had no such items on their agendas.

— Claire Bessette

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