The Municipal Accountability Review Board (MARB) voted to move West Haven to a Tier-4 designation on Thursday. The Tier-4 designation means that the state will impose the highest level of oversight on the city’s finances.

Though local government officials objected to the motion, including Mayor Nancy Rossi, many members of MARB expressed how moving to the Tier-4 designation was the board’s only option to get the city’s finances back on track after decades of struggles and the alleged looting of COVID-19 relief funds by former State Rep. Michael DiMassa and others.

“Had the city followed our recommendations it would not have been possible for him to have done so,” board member Sal Luciano said. “Therefore, with a heavy heart, I don’t see any other option for us except to go into Tier-4.”

West Haven’s Treasurer Michael Last argued against the Tier-4 designation noting that the Tier-4 designation would raise taxes on the city’s residents.

“[Tier-4] would require more than a one Mill increase to our taxpayers and as an elected official I have to protect the taxpayers,” Last said. 

Last also made the argument that the city’s balance sheet has been much improved over the last four years. However, a member of the board, Jeff Beckham, was quick to fire back at Last’s comment.

“The balance sheet is stronger because the state has infused funds into the municipality,” Beckham said. “So your comments are not well received.”

Ultimately, it is up to Gov. Lamont whether or not the state will move West Haven to Tier-4, however, perhaps signaling his intentions, he commented earlier last week that he thinks West Haven needs a  “fresh start.”

Members of MARB made it clear that they only want the best for West Haven and said they’re not looking to babysit the city in perpetuity.

“In supporting a move towards Tier-4 designation, this is an expression of MARB being on the side of the city,” board member Christine Shaw said. “We earnestly want the city to stand on its own two feet, to be independent and to manage its own affairs. MARB is not in the business of perpetual oversight.”

As residents call for her resignation, West Haven city council recently unanimously passed a vote of no confidence in Mayor Nancy Rossi.

While the embattled mayor accepted responsibility for the state of affairs in West Haven, she said that she would not be stepping down.

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Tom Hopkins wrote for CII from April 2022 to February 2023. Prior to joining CII, he worked in print, television, and as a freelance journalist.

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