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Former mayoral candidate calls for transparency amid West Haven finance investigation

WTIC Hartford logo WTIC Hartford 10/10/2021 Elisha Machado, FOX61 Staff

A former West Haven mayoral candidate is calling for accountability and transparency as an investigation into possible fraudulent and improper use of federal COVID-19 relief funds.

On Friday, Mayor Nancy Rossi released a video message saying she came across several concerning large expenditures when reviewing CARES act spending over the last two weeks.

RELATED: West Haven investigating possible ‘fraudulent’ use of federal COVID-19 relief funds

“I suspect that some of these funds may have been diverted and not sued for the purpose in which they were intended. A thought that sickens me. Having found this irregularity, it is my responsibility to report it,” Rossi said.

Rossi said an Investigation and audit is underway, adding that the city’s accounting firm found the transactions suspicious.

John Lewis, a Democratic challenger to Mayor Rossi in September's primary, said he called for a separate account and monthly report for the funds months ago. 

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“I mentioned this way back in March, you’re looking at 6-8 months of nothing. No accountability,” Lewis said. “There should have been a committee set up, to me, to determine how the funds should be dispersed.”

Lewis raised the administration of the relief funds as an issue several times during his campaign, saying that "the distribution of the Covid Relief Funds to some of the highest salaried employees in West Haven is both ethically and morally wrong."

Lewis objected to bonuses for certain city employees and other expenditures, but it is not clear if those expenditures are what the Mayor is referring to, or what FBI agents who were at City Hall on Friday were investigating.

The city received $1.2 million in 2020 from the federal CARES Act to help communities recover from the pandemic, according to the mayor.

“A lot of these funds should be going into the hands of the residents so that local businesses, local homeowners, people who are renters, just so that we can get this economy jump stars again,” Lewis said.

Mayor Rossi said If the investigation proves wrongdoing, anyone involved should be prosecuted.

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