[Editor's note: This article was originally published on Dec. 1.]
The following is a press release submitted by the East Haven Mayor's Office. The original release appears in the gallery that accompanies this article.
East Haven Mayor Joseph Maturo, Jr. announced today that as of Nov. 30 he has called for an immediate spending freeze, which requires any department expenditure above $25 to be approved by the Mayor’s Office.
Maturo explained, “After speaking with several department heads who expressed concerns about the state of their department spending, I decided that it was necessary to halt all discretionary spending until our exact financial position can be determined.”
Part of the motivation for this move came in response to a report from Town Attorney Joseph Zullo regarding the status of the Legal Services and Insurance budgets.
Maturo explained, “I received a report yesterday from the Town Attorney which detailed excessive over-spending from the Town’s two main legal accounts.”
Records from the finance department confirm that in the first four months of this fiscal year, the Town expended approximately $376,891.89 from the self-insurance reserve fund — leaving just $23,108.11 in the account for the rest of the year to pay legal fees.
Additionally, estimates from the finance department indicate that the Town could be facing a deficit in its self insurance rainy day fund in excess of $200,000.
Maturo explained, “That fund, which the Town utilizes if and when it must pay out large settlements, should always be maintained at or around $1 million dollars.”
Maturo continued, “It has become clear that the past administration used both of these funds to pay legal fees to attorneys who conducted work for the Town. This dangerous practice allowed the past administration to rack up huge legal fees without ever going before the Board of Finance for approval or to obtain the proper transfers.”
Maturo explained, “Since the first day of our transition period, it has become clear that the Town is facing significant financial challenges presented by over-time, legal fees, and legal claims. This spending freeze is intended to bring stability to the Town budget and send a message that the party is over.”
Maturo concluded, “I will be challenging all of our department heads, in the coming weeks, to take a hard look at their budgets and come up with creative ways to make sure we stay on course. This new administration will not tolerate the kind of gross over-spending that apparently took place over the course of the last four years.”