The Story of Never Ending Sleaze, repost from www.freespeech.com
The Story of Never Ending Sleaze
The picture is of Arthur L. Spada, Commissioner of Department of Public Safety, Connecticut State Police
There has been a long rumored relationship between Governor John G. Rowland and top brass in the Connecticut State Police.
As extensive as the alleged corruption goes, there has to be, in my opinion, others in top positions that knew about secret deals and other illegal activities perpetrated out of top leadership positions in Connecticut.
Does the scandal involve law enforcement leadership and members of the Connecticut Judiciary?
-Steven G. Erickson
A Boost From The Top Rowland's Votes Aided Friends' Ventures
January 18, 2004, By DAVE ALTIMARI, JACK DOLAN, And JON LENDER Hartford Courant Staff Writers (ctnow.com)
Excerpt: ??federal investigation into bid rigging in the award of more than $100 million in state contracts.?
(click link below for more)
As chairman of the State Bond Commission, Gov. John G. Rowland has at least twice directly overseen the award of economic development aid affecting business ventures involving people with whom he had personal or financial relationships.
In a 1998 commission meeting at which Rowland presided and voted, the panel granted a $3.175 million loan to a subsidiary of The Tomasso Group, which is now involved in a federal investigation into bid rigging in the award of more than $100 million in state contracts.
Rowland last year paid thousands of dollars to settle an ethics complaint over cut-rate stays at Tomasso family vacation homes, and he has admitted that a member of the family provided free renovations to Rowland's lakefront cottage in Litchfield.
The second vote, in 2000, gave the town of Prospect a $175,000 grant to study the feasibility of building an industrial park on land owned by a partnership called RMK Prospect Associates. That partnership included two men involved in a land deal with Rowland that netted the governor a profit of about $60,000, including more than $2,000 the year the grant was approved. RMK Associates could get $3 million for the land if the industrial park is built.
The bond commission votes further erode Rowland's efforts to distance himself from contracts and other state benefits received by people with whom he had close relationships.
His insistence that his office had nothing to do with the award of contracts was called into question last month by disclosure of documents indicating his former co-chief of staff, Peter N. Ellef, made a practice of signing off on all significant contracts. Ellef is now a subject of the federal bid-rigging probe.
And other documents show that three children of Rowland's partners in the land deal got state jobs or promotions during the years the partnership operated, two of them with the governor's direct sponsorship.
Through all of his apologies for taking inappropriate gifts from subordinates and state contractors, Rowland has steadfastly maintained that he "never - not once - provided any favors" or took any actions in exchange.
But minutes of the State Bond Commission meetings show that he also did not remove himself from the deliberations over state assistance packages that benefited friends. And, as the official who ultimately decides which proposals the bond commission will consider, he took an active role in their approval.
"Knowing what we know now, as a fellow public official, I would have strongly advised the governor that he should have recused himself from these proceedings," said Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who is also a member of the commission.
Blumenthal's agency is one of several now investigating allegations of unethical or illegal behavior by the governor. He said he therefore cannot comment on whether Rowland's actions as chairman of the commission might expose him to greater legal jeopardy than he already faces.
Rowland's legal counsel, Ross Garber, had no comment other than to say, "The bond commission has probably approved thousands and thousands of projects during the governor's tenure."
A New Venture
The Tomasso name has long been associated with construction and property management, but in the 1990s members of the family formed a subsidiary that now produces water treatment equipment.
In January 1998 the company, called Tenergy, got a $200,000 grant from the Department of Economic and Community Development. The agency also awarded a $2.125 million grant to the city of New Britain that was earmarked for the industrial park where Tenergy was to build a plant.
On Jan. 7, 1998 - before the $200,000 grant was awarded to Tenergy - department Commissioner James Abromitis sent Rowland a letter that anticipated approval of the grant. The same day, Abromitis informed other administration officials that the Tenergy grant needed to be "processed immediately" by Ellef.
On Jan. 30, 1998, Rowland presided over the bond commission meeting at which Tenergy was unanimously awarded the $3.175 million loan, to be used to build its plant in New Britain.
While Tenergy was starting up, other Tomasso Group businesses were booming in the late 1990s, winning major state contracts including a juvenile training school in Middletown, a parking garage at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks and a courthouse in Bridgeport.
All three contracts are now under investigation by a federal grand jury. A former Rowland administration official, former deputy chief of staff Lawrence Alibozek, has pleaded guilty to receiving bribes in exchange for rigging unspecified state contracts.
Rowland's relationship with members of the Tomasso family also was blossoming, particularly with William Tomasso, an executive with The Tomasso Group and subsidiary companies.
From 1999 to 2001, Rowland took three trips to Tomasso-owned vacation homes in Florida and Vermont, paying rates that were well below market value. Last year he paid more than $9,000 to settle State Ethics Commission complaints over those and a fourth trip to a different benefactor's home.
And in 1999, William Tomasso dispatched company employees to work on Rowland's cottage on Bantam Lake in Litchfield. He also arranged for other work, including installation of a heating system that was paid for by Ellef and Alibozek. Federal investigators also have questioned several contractors about the work done to Rowland's cottage.
Attorney Thomas J. Murphy, who is representing The Tomasso Group, said in an e-mail to a Courant reporter Saturday that any suggestion of wrongdoing related to Tenergy is "utterly false."
"First, the Bond Commission's approval of DECD's request for redevelopment money for the City of New Britain - to be used for the construction of Tenergy's physical plant - occurred in an open, public process. State officials approved the bond money to bring high-paying manufacturing jobs back to New Britain.
"Second, the chronology shows that this bond money was not approved `in exchange' for anything: The Bond Commission met in January 1998; the minor work that Tomasso employees reportedly performed at the Governor's cottage occurred long after.
"Third, the Tomassos have not profited on Tenergy. Instead, they have poured millions of their own dollars into the company - far more than the state's investment - as part of their commitment to their home town. Tenergy is doing good things for its community; it has no part in this investigation. To suggest otherwise is a grave disservice."
In the late 1990s, Rowland was involved in a lucrative investment partnership called First Development LLC that included Anthony R. Cocchiola, the owner of Cocchiola Paving of Watertown; Michael H. Cicchetti, a Waterbury lawyer whose specialties include real estate development; and Robert Capanna, a now-deceased businessman and landowner in the Prospect area, where the partnership operated.
Rowland put up about $7,200 in seed money, according to a statement his office released last month, compared with about $10,000 each from Cocchiola and Cicchetti and about $11,000 from Capanna. The partners shared the profits from their 24-lot subdivision equally, each receiving about $60,000 before the partnership, formed in 1996, was dissolved in 2001.
It is not clear what Rowland contributed to the partnership in terms of time or expertise, but the other three were experienced in real estate development. Even as they did business with Rowland, the three were putting together another deal: assembling 177 acres in Prospect for a possible industrial park. The partners, doing business as RMK Prospect Associates LLC, paid $1.4 million for the property, town records show.
Cicchetti approached the town in 1998 about buying the land for an industrial park. The town needed to do a feasibility study before a deal could be made.
Cicchetti met with state Department of Economic Development officials to pitch the project in May 1999. Department officials eventually decided to give the town a $175,000 grant, which the town matched.
The bond commission, with Rowland serving as chairman, approved the grant unanimously on May 26, 2000.
Prospect officials are now preparing for a referendum to see if residents will approve building the park. Mayor Robert Chatfield said the town has an option to purchase the property from RMK for about $3 million, more than twice what RMK paid.
Chatfield expects the state will pay half of those costs.
Rowland's relationship with Cicchetti and Cocchiola went beyond First Development. Cicchetti represented Rowland in various matters, including the purchase and renovation of his Bantam Lake cottage in 1997. And Cocchiola did $2,000 worth of site work at the cottage in 1997; he, like other contractors at the cottage, didn't get paid for years.
And an internal patronage list, apparently generated by the governor's office, lists Rowland as the sponsor for Cicchetti's son and daughter, Michael J. Cicchetti and Kara Cicchetti, who both had state jobs while their father was in business with the governor and who both wound up in higher-paying positions.
Although she is not on the patronage list, state records show Melissa Cocchiola, Anthony's daughter, also got a state job in 1998 and now earns more than $48,000. Anthony Cocchiola's paving company has done more than $900,000 in work for the state since First Development was formed.
Rowland's office has said he did not influence any contract awards to Cocchiola. Cocchiola and Cicchetti could not be reached for comment.
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