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    Monday, March 27, 2023

    OPINION: New London taxpayers liable for $4 million linked to Lamont scandals

    The facts are pretty simple.

    And the situation is shocking, with New London taxpayers, now caught up in the unfolding state school construction scandal, responsible for some $4 million in school costs that might normally have been reimbursed by the state, but apparently now won’t be.

    And yet as alarming as that might be, city officials have been hush-hush about the problem, trying to solve it on the sly with some hopeful legislation that proposes a blind eye toward the law that New London should have followed in awarding millions in demolition and remediation work for its new high school.

    The issue finally came into public view with an excellent news story by the Connecticut Mirror.

    School officials here say they didn’t follow the law for competitive bidding because they listened to instructions not to follow bid regulations from the office of Kosta Diamantis, the deputy budget chief later fired by Gov. Ned Lamont who is now the subject of a wide-ranging federal probe into the school construction program.

    New London officialdom got the bad news some time ago that the state doesn’t want to hear about advice the city got from the state officials, no matter how discredited the officials who gave it to them may now be.

    Instead, the state says there will be no reimbursement money because the city didn’t follow the law.

    Local Democratic lawmakers, Rep. Christine Conley, Rep. Anthony Nolan and Sen. Martha Marx, introduced legislation back in early January that would essentially exempt New London from the bidding law, after the fact.

    I reached freshman legislator Marx Monday and she told me the bill was introduced at the behest of New London Mayor Michael Passero and that she believes it has a good chance of passing.

    Passero, too, when I spoke with him Monday, expressed confidence that the bill will eventually pass the legislature. He said the state’s school construction office, now in its post-Diamantis management, says it will not oppose the bill even though it can’t now lawfully agree to reimburse New London.

    Curiously, lawmakers usually jump up and down and issue press releases when they introduce a bill. I guess I don’t blame them for not wanting to celebrate one pursuing the city’s request for amnesty, no matter how well deserved.

    But no one in the local delegation or in city government warned the public in any way that some $4 million in school reimbursement that should have been fairly routine is now going to be subject to a vote in the General Assembly granting the city after-the-fact amnesty from bidding laws.

    This reminds me of course of the recently-completed faux Lamont administration audit into the troubled school construction program, which did not even look at the issue of how the state school construction office interacted with municipalities.

    There is a lot of suggestion that is where the corruption lies. But the Lamont administration has not gotten to the bottom of it as he promised to before the election, when news of the federal investigations first broke.

    His administration also did not issue any press releases saying New London taxpayers will have to swallow $4 million because they followed the rules of managers he supported.

    New London taxpayers, it seems, could be in store for paying the price of whatever school construction wrongdoing that federal authorities may eventually uncover and prosecute.

    This is the opinion of David Collins


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