Lawmaker Questions DOT’s $5.6 Million Purchase Of 1.5 Acres [Hartford Courant]

May 24, 2011

Hartford Courant
Story as it appeared in the Hartford Courant on May 23, 2011

HARTFORD — A Republican state senator asked Connecticut’s attorney general and auditors Monday to investigate a “potential misuse of taxpayer dollars” in the Department of Transportation’s purchase of 1.5 acres in Hartford for $5.6 million to use as a station on the planned New Britain-to-Hartford busway.

The request by Sen. Jason Welch, R-Bristol, came in response to a Sunday Courant column by Kevin Rennie disclosing that the DOT paid Aetna more than $5.6 million in 2008 for 1.5 acres now used primarily for parking on Hawthorn Street by its intersection with Sigourney Street. The city has assessed the value of the land at $442,000.

“Many taxpayers in my district already feel the proposed New Britain to Hartford Busway is an unwise use of state resources, and I have no doubt that I will receive several inquiries from angry and frustrated constituents who read Mr. Rennie’s column,” Welch wrote to Attorney General George Jepsen, and State Auditors Robert Ward and John Geragosian. “The payments [by DOT] appear to have no basis in reality, and it is my duty as a state legislator to make sure public dollars are spent prudently and wisely.”

Welch’s letter, released to The Courant, wasn’t delivered Monday by the state’s interoffice mail system. When it is, Jepsen’s office will treat it as a “whistleblower complaint” and refer it to the auditors for initial investigation, an attorney general’s spokeswoman said. Ward said that he and Geragosian would “look at whether it falls under our jurisdiction” for examination of whether laws and proper procedures were followed.

DOT spokesman Judd Everhart said “an appraisal process” was conducted, adding: “We’re happy to show those appraisals to anyone who would like to see them, and we would welcome an independent review.”