Top Stories 2017: Controversial Kentucky Derby trips led to many changes

The 2016 controversy over lavish trips to the Kentucky Derby hosted by the Connecticut Municipal Electric Energy Cooperative continued in 2017, with ethics violation rulings in Norwich and Groton and more state scrutiny over municipal utilities.

Four Norwich Public Utilities officials, then-Mayor Deberey Hinchey and three Groton Utilities officials were found in violation of ethics codes. In March, Hinchey paid the city the recommended $1,945 reimbursement, 25 percent of the estimated value of her trip. NPU General Manager John Bilda in September donated $15,000 to a fuel assistance fund.

Former Norwich utilities commission Chairwoman Dee Boisclair and Vice Chairman Robert Groner resigned prior to a City Council investigation. In Groton, utilities commission member Edward DeMuzzio resigned when faced with potential removal and said he would donate $7,500, the value of his 2016 trip, to a charity. GU Director Ronald Gaudet, who attended the 2016 trip for one day, and GU General Manager of Utility Finance David Collard each were fined $100 and asked to donate $7,500 to a Groton Human Services program to support needy families.

State law changes mandate all CMEEC retreats now be held in state and include official business. A five-year forensic audit of CMEEC’s books is underway, and veteran Aetna attorney Bill Kowalski was named in December as the new municipal electric energy consumer advocate.

— Claire Bessette

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