Amistad action at last!
On Thursday, The Day published an editorial urging state Attorney General George Jepsen to initiate legal action to get control over the schooner Amistad and its finances. By Thursday morning, Mr. Jepsen was in Superior Court in Hartford obtaining an order that places a receiver in charge of the operations and the assets of Amistad America, Inc.
Now that is what we call a quick response!
Seriously, we claim no cause and effect, the negotiations and legal maneuverings that led to Thursday's order were clearly in the works for a while. However, it is welcomed news and a necessary step toward getting the ship under sound management and sorting through its convoluted fiscal problems.
The order places full control of Amistad America with the state-appointed receiver, attorney Katharine B. Sacks of New Haven. The order also prohibits the organization's creditors from taking action to collect on debts without first giving notice to the receiver and the state, and obtaining court approval.
A recent audit verified what had become apparent - Amistad America, charged with carrying out the ship's educational mission, was in serious trouble. The board was no longer viable, the organization did not follow basic accounting practices, its nonprofit status was lost for failure to file federal tax returns, and the group owed creditors tens of thousands of dollars.
Tellingly, Amistad America cooperated with the receivership decision. It remains mind-boggling how the state continued for years to invest economic development dollars in the troubled organization.
The replica of the 19th century ship was completed at Mystic Seaport in 2000. It tells the story of the 1839 rebellion of 53 captured Africans before they could be sold into the slave trade, and the subsequent court case that secured their freedom.
In our Thursday editorial, we suggested it might be best if the Amistad could be placed in the hands of the Seaport. The announcement about the receivership suggested state officials have other ideas.
"I am especially grateful to Mayor Harp and the City of New Haven - Amistad's home port - for the vital support that they have pledged in identifying and supporting a sustainable future for Connecticut's ship. We look forward to working towards that goal with them," Mr. Jepsen said.
Home location is a discussion for later and the least of the state's worries. This remains a challenging situation, but Mr. Jepsen has set the right course.
The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Izaskun E. Larrañeta, staff writer Erica Moser and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.
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Taking collectively, these changes aim to provide fairer juries at the front end of the criminal-justice process and reduce recidivism at the back end. Those are laudable goals.
Retired Commander Merle James Smith Jr. was the first African American to graduate from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, first to command a federal vessel in combat, and first African American sea service officer to receive the Bronze Star.