Tomasso Wins Board Seat After Contract Award

Mon April 07, 2003 - National Edition

HARTFORD (AP) Three months after a politically-connected construction firm was awarded a $52-million state contract to build a juvenile correctional facility, its president won a seat on a Connecticut related advisory board, The Hartford Courant reported recently.

William A. Tomasso was appointed to the Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee in July 1999 and remains a member.

Federal authorities have subpoenaed documents from numerous state agencies concerning the juvenile detention center and at least two other Tomasso Group projects: the Bridgeport Court and Juvenile Center and the Bradley International Airport parking garage.

The investigators have not identified Tomasso Group as a subject of their investigation, but the subpoenas seek documents concerning the firm.

Gov. Rowland has used Tomasso-owned properties for vacations, parties and political fund-raisers; made both William and Michael Tomasso policy advisers in his administration; and obtained jobs for at least one Rowland aide at a Tomasso company.

Rowland’s former deputy chief of staff, Lawrence Alibozek, has pleaded guilty to steering state contracts in exchange for gold and cash.

It was just a few months after William Tomasso’s company was awarded the training school contract that he was named to the advisory panel, The Courant said.

The panel reports to the governor and state Office of Policy and Management. Its primary functions are to prevent juvenile delinquency, make policy recommendations and advise the state on how to spend federal juvenile justice funds of about $3.5 million each year.

The Associated Press could not reach Tomasso for comment.

Chris Cooper, spokesman for the Republican governor, said Tomasso was appointed for “the same reason other volunteers are appointed” to these types of committees.

Democrats in the General Assembly rejected that explanation.

“This group is supposed to be advising the governor and Congress on policy matters for juvenile justice. What is he doing there?” asked state Sen. Eileen Daily, a member of the advisory board.

State Sen. Donald E. Williams Jr., chairman of the legislature’s select committee on children, called Tomasso’s participation on the committee a “conflict of interest.”

“He brings nothing to the table on the topic of juvenile justice — other than his own personal interest, of course,” Williams said.

Separately, the legislature’s Government Administration and Elections Committee will soon examine the state’s bidding practices following Alibozek’s guilty plea.

Lawmakers will call witnesses and review bidding laws from other states in order to improve Connecticut’s contracting safeguards, said Rep. James A. O’Rourke, committee’s co-chairman.

“I want to send a message out there that this kind of behavior is not going to be tolerated,” said O’Rourke, D-Cromwell. “You don’t use your public office to enrich yourself. Shakedowns and kickbacks are not going to be tolerated.”

Rowland said he opposed possible hearings by the Democratic-controlled legislature.

“I think it would be a huge mistake for politicians to get involved in investigating,” he said.