The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is reportedly investigating financial issues surrounding public financing of the construction of Dunkin’ Donuts Park, home of the Hartford Yard Goats (Class AA; Eastern League).
Though the FBI and the local U.S. attorney would not comment, Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin says the investigation is an outgrowth of information his office supplied to the FBI regarding Centerplan Construction Co., the ballpark contractor, regarding allegations that Centerplan had not been paying subcontractors despite receiving money from the city. From the Hartford Courant:
“The probe being reported today is not focused on the City of Hartford, and we believe that it was prompted by information proactively shared by the City of Hartford,” Bronin said. “As you know, my administration terminated Centerplan Construction Company in June for failure to perform, but we also expressed a much broader lack of confidence in Centerplan.”
“Around the same time, my administration contacted the FBI to share concerns about Centerplan’s handling of the project, including their failure to pay subcontractors for their work,” Bronin said. “This is one more demonstration of our commitment to absolute accountability, because that’s what taxpayers deserve.”
Corporation Counsel Howard Rifkin said Friday he told federal law enforcement that payments due ballpark contractors by Centerplan had not been made.
“The city went to the FBI with concerns based on allegations that certain vendors and subcontractors that should have been paid were not paid, and that the amount was quite large,” Rifkin said. “So we went to the FBI and said ‘We’d like you to take a look at it because something is not right with the picture’.”
But that is probably not the whole picture; the FBI would not become involved in a garden-variety dispute between a contractor and a client. Centerplan’s CEO and founder Robert Landino says his firm did nothing wrong and resolve issues with Hartford in court.
The whole story of the new ballpark, scheduled to open in April, has been one of drama and delays. The ballpark was originally scheduled to open for the 2016 season, but developers Centerplan and DoNo Hartford kept pushing back opening day to the point where the Yard Goats threatened to walk away from the project. Hartford finally suspended Centerplan and DoNo Hartford, bringing in Whiting-Turner Contracting to finish the project. There are multiple lawsuits involving the city, Centerplan, team owner Josh Solomon, Arch Insurance and Webster Bank about missed deadlines, project terminations and unpaid loans.
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