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UPDATED: NCDC selects former Mohegan Tribal Chairman Kevin Brown as new president

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Norwich — Kevin Brown, the former Mohegan Tribal Council chairman who resigned suddenly in February 2019 amid an ethics investigation, was selected unanimously as the new president of the Norwich Community Development Corp. on Thursday morning.

The NCDC board of directors held a special meeting to vote on Brown’s selection after the agency’s first choice, Windham Economic Development Director Jim Bellano, declined the position after the two parties could not reach contractual terms. Brown was the second finalist at the time.

NCDC started searching for a new president after former President Jason Vincent died Dec. 30.

Board Chairman Robert Buckley declined to comment following the vote Thursday morning. The vote authorized Buckley to "finalize arrangements" with Brown. Later Thursday, NCDC issued a brief news release saying Brown would start July 6, and he "brings a wealth of managerial experience and has many contacts throughout the local community."

After the meeting, Norwich Mayor Peter Nystrom called Brown "a good candidate" and said the NCDC search committee did a thorough background check and found no verifiable problems.

"Clearly, his ability to work at the high levels is pretty well known," Nystrom said.

Nystrom, an NCDC board member, could not vote on the selection Thursday because board rules for a quorum mandate a majority of voting members must represent the private sector rather than city-appointed board members.

"I look forward to someone in a leadership role there," said City Council President Pro Tempore Mark Bettencourt, also a voting NCDC board member. "And certainly, Kevin Brown has those qualities."

Brown said Thursday afternoon he looks forward to starting his new position and working on all aspects of economic development in his former hometown. He said his Mohegan heritage is well known, but he also has strong Irish immigrant ancestry. His father's family grew up on Roath Street in downtown Norwich, and Brown as a boy delivered the Norwich Bulletin, then headquartered at 66 Franklin St., now home of NCDC and its shared workspace facility.

"I had a solid connection with Jason (Vincent) while he was serving in the role," Brown said, "and the opportunity to keep his work going is important to me."

Brown, of Guilford, called the NCDC position a "roll up your sleeves" job, more so than some other administrative posts he has held. "I'm excited and grateful to do that kind of work now."

He is aware that Norwich on Monday cut its proposed funding to the agency from $200,000 to $150,000 in the fiscal year starting July 1, but said he and the agency will function with whatever resources are available.

Brown said he already is planning transition meetings and will tap the knowledge of transition coordinator Fawn Walker to get started.

Downtown revitalization is never a new concept, Brown said, and he hopes to offer incentives to businesses coming to the central city. He is excited by the prospect of creating a second Norwich business park, a project NCDC is exploring for the former Tarryk and Doolittle farms in Occum. He said he hopes residents support the plan, as it would improve the city's tax base and "make it better for everyone."

Norwich City Manager John Salomone, who had supported Brown in the initial selection process in May, said he had no concerns about Brown’s sudden departure from his Mohegan leadership position.

“I’m looking forward to him starting the job,” Salomone said. “There’s lots to do in the area of economic development. I look forward to working with him.”

During Brown’s tenure as Mohegan Tribal Council chairman, from October 2013 to February 2019, he maintained a high profile in the community and government circles, testifying at the state legislature on gaming bills and overseeing expansion of both gaming and nongaming business ventures. Brown played a prominent role in the 2017 agreement by Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment, the corporate entity that owns Mohegan Sun, to purchase the 393-acre former Norwich Hospital property in Preston for a nongaming development.

Nystrom, who attended the 2017 signing ceremony for the development agreement with Brown, Preston officials and then-Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, called that potential development “a huge win for the city of Norwich,” as the utility provider for natural gas, water and sewer and possibly electricity to the Preston property.

Brown agreed. He recalled meeting with Nystrom at one point and drew a triangle, with Norwich at the top point, the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe's Foxwoods Resort Casino at another point, and Mohegan Sun at the third point. The Preston Norwich Hospital property, he said, is in the middle.

MGE oversees tribal gaming enterprises, including, in addition to Mohegan Sun, Mohegan Sun Pocono, a racetrack casino in Wilkes- Barre, Pa., and management deals with casinos in several states and Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada, and is developing a resort casino in South Korea.

But Brown’s tenure as tribal chairman abruptly ended when he resigned as tribal chairman Feb. 8, 2019, and in August 2019 resigned from the Tribal Council, which also serves as the Mohegan Gaming management board. Sources told The Day at the time that his resignation came after an independent investigation into alleged violations of the tribe’s ethics code, allegedly involving breaches of confidentiality and possible other issues.

Testimony in a state Freedom of Information hearing over the release of a police report revealed Brown had been involved in a 2018 domestic dispute involving a former girlfriend’s claim that he had trespassed at her home. No criminal charges were filed.

Brown said both he and the Mohegan tribe have "moved on" from issues surrounding his sudden departure.

"I had a bump in my personal life, and due to some personal and political agendas, it became much larger than it needed to be," Brown said. "The proof is in the pudding, and I'm in a really good place right now."

He said he is "a Mohegan tribal member for the rest of my life" and is committed to helping the city of Norwich and the tribe work together.

Brown, a Montville native and graduate of Montville High School and from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., served 24 years in the Army and retired as a colonel in 2011. In December 2018, he was inducted into the Connecticut Veterans Hall of Fame.

Day Staff Writer Brian Hallenbeck contributed to this report.

c.bessette@theday.com

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