Closing a Season and a Chapter of Life on the Water

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It ended tranquilly, with a gentle bump in the night of boat against wooden pier.  When Chester-Hadlyme Ferry Captain John Marshall nosed the vessel into the Chester landing as 7 p.m. approached Tuesday, it marked not only the boat’s last trip of the season, but was the soon-to-retire Marshall’s final crossing of the Connecticut River that he’d made countless thousands of times in his 22 years at the helm. CT Examiner spent Marshall’s last few hours on the historic ferry with him as he spoke about his unusual career, the boat that became his second home, and his more than

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Developer Pulls Back, Town Moves Ahead on Swing Bridge Landing Vote

EAST HADDAM – The developer of the proposed Swing Bridge Landing has hit the pause button on his $50 million downtown commercial redevelopment, but the town is moving forward with creating a redevelopment agency to oversee any potential transformation of the historic riverfront village. “He’s on hold depending what the town does,” First Selectman Irene Haines said at a Monday night meeting of the East Haddam Village Revitalization Committee of the developer, local architect Jeff Riley and his Centerbridge group of investors.  “I think at this point they’re not ready to pull the plug yet,” she said later of Riley’s

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Defense Asks Judge to Acquit Utility Executives in Theft Case

NEW HAVEN – Defense lawyers for five former officials of a public utility cooperative charged with misappropriating public funds to pay for extravagant corporate retreats to the Kentucky Derby and a golf resort filed a motion in court for a dismissal of the charges, claiming that federal prosecutors had failed to present evidence of criminal wrongdoing. “The trial evidence has not lived up to the story the government spun in the indictment,” the lawyers claim in the filing made late last week in U.S. District Court after prosecutors presented their case against the former officials of the Connecticut Municipal Electric

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How Lamont Administration Uses Political Appointees to Shape Loyal Government

It’s a job situation perhaps best described as flying without a net.  Because when you’re one of the hundreds of state political appointees working in virtually every agency and elected office, as the saying among them goes, you can be fired at any moment if the boss doesn’t like the color of your shirt. On the flip side, most appointees got the job because of their political connections and without having to satisfy any formal requirements about their qualifications for it.   What they all share is the daily visceral awareness that state law says they “serve at the pleasure” of

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New London Police Chief Moves on From Allegations

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NEW LONDON – Back on the job after being cleared of misconduct allegations by one of his own men, police Chief Brian Wright says his only focus is moving the department, and himself, past the turbulence that marked his roller-coaster initial weeks as the city’s first Black chief.  Saying he was “ecstatic” to be back on duty, Wright spoke to CT Examiner on Monday while still settling back into his office after a six-week absence.  “It was difficult, and there was a lot of emotion involved in it,” Wright said of being the subject of a sexual-harassment and retaliation complaint

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Close, But Not There Yet on East Haddam Village Vote

EAST HADDAM – Under pressure of legal deadlines and holidays and a developer’s building impatience, the joint meeting of the boards of Selectmen and Finance was called this week to move along in redesigning the future of the downtown village. But in the end, that goal was derailed by the boards’ agreement that the process had become a doomed-to-fail example of the cart before the horse — an expression that came up repeatedly during the session. “It seems, in my humble opinion, that the cart is sort of before the horse here,” finance board member Harvey Thomas said less than

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Chief Brian Wright Returns to Head the New London Police Department

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NEW LONDON – Police Chief Brian Wright returned to his job today after an investigation cleared him of a sexual harassment and “retaliation” complaint filed the day he was suspended on Oct. 6, Mayor Michael Passero said in a brief press release. According to the release, the complaint against Wright, the city’s first Black police chief who was suspended after only three months on the job, stemmed from when he was still a captain, and was involved in performing internal investigations that led to discipline against officers. “The independent investigation into the complaint and allegations made against the Chief of

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Anticipating a Wave of Retirements, Unions, Legislators Debate Needs at CTDOT

Despite the game-changing billions of federal infrastructure-improvement dollars expected to arrive on the state Department of Transportation’s doorstep within months, the head of the agency’s technical-workers union is charging a lack of urgency by the administration to hire the hundreds of new workers it will take to put that money into action. “We are way behind the eight-ball when it comes to hiring,” said Travis Woodward, a department of transportation engineer and president of the CSEA/SEIU Local 2001 union representing about 900 agency engineers, planners, property agents, bridge safety inspectors, materials technicians and IT specialists. “They should be panicking like

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New Union President Talks New Direction, Move Forward for New London Police

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NEW LONDON – Coming amid a notably rancorous time for the city’s police department, Sgt. Josh Bergeson and others who spoke to CT Examiner on Monday said his election as president of the officers’ union signals a desire in the force for a change of direction and approach from previous union leadership. The 37-year-old Bergeson said one of his immediate goals is to move the department past the fallout over a recent flurry of lawsuits and internal accusations alleging gender and racial discrimination by a small group of supervisors, as well as the still-cloudy suspension last month of the city’s

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East Haddam Aims for Dec. 14 Referendum on Village Redevelopment

EAST HADDAM – Aiming to hold a moved-up Dec. 14 referendum to decide the commercial fate of the riverfront downtown village, town officials and the would-be developer will engage in a series of meetings and negotiations this week that will determine if that time-crunched goal can be made. The tentatively-scheduled referendum date comes nearly two years after local architect Jeff Riley proposed to transform the mostly-vacated municipal site into Swing Bridge Landing, an ambitious mix of commercial, retail and residential development adjacent to its namesake iconic span across the Connecticut River.  Plans include approximately 94,000 square-feet of shops, restaurants and

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Industry Official Raises Doubts About DOT Ability to Handle Wave of Federal Funding

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The head of the state’s largest construction industry association said on Thursday that he has serious doubts about the Connecticut Department of Transportation’s ability to handle the expected influx of billions of dollars of federal infrastructure funding for the state’s aging roads, bridges and trains.   Donald Schubert, president of the Connecticut Construction Industries Association, told CT Examiner that every aspect of the construction business has the potential to explode when the trillion-dollar Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act funding starts flowing next year – depending on the Department of Transportation’s ability to execute the program.  “There’s some momentum growing already and

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Law Enforcement Veteran Steps into Leadership Role for New London

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NEW LONDON – He’s been in the city barely a month, temporarily overseeing a police department in recent turmoil, but law enforcement veteran Neville Brooks is already familiar enough to the morning regulars at a downtown café to draw some friendly ribbing when he stops in for coffee.  “Hey, where’d you get that hat?” teases one man sitting next to the front door of Muddy Waters Café on Tuesday, seconds after the impeccably-dressed Brooks walks in wearing his signature stylish brim.  “You ain’t from around here are ya’?” wryly chimes in another man at a nearby table as Brooks chuckles

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Haines Signals Strong Support for East Haddam Redevelopment

EAST HADDAM – Newly-elected First Selectman Irene Haines says she strongly supports a highly-debated commercial transformation of the riverfront downtown village – a signal that the developer of the proposed Swing Bridge Landing project insists is crucial to moving it forward. Haines, a Republican who on Tuesday defeated Democrat Scott Jezek by a total of 1,734 votes to Jezek’s 1,604, said one of the first calls she made after taking office was to Swing Bridge developer and Centerbrook architect Jeff Riley.  “He’s glad that somebody wants to move it along and make it happen,” Haines said, adding that she shares

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Harassment Case Leads to Demotion in New London Police Department

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NEW LONDON – A police lieutenant accused of harassing and discriminating against a female detective who sued him has been demoted to sergeant for a year and warned that any further discipline will cost him his rank permanently.  Lt. Jeffrey Kalolo was demoted late last week after an investigation determined that “discipline is warranted for your misconduct and to effectuate future change in your professional conduct and performance going forward,” city Chief Administrative Officer and former state police Trooper Steven Fields wrote in an Oct. 28 disciplinary letter to Kalolo obtained by CT Examiner under a Freedom of Information Act

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A Gull’s-Eye View of a Wildlife Refuge Next Door

WESTBROOK — The swooping bald eagle hunting above the marshy river is interrupted by a winged invader intent on disrupting the bigger bird’s afternoon meal plans.  Rising aloft above the brawny eagle and then plunging down toward it yo-yo fashion time after time, the identity of the aggressive, slender-winged white bird is at first elusive to the wildlife photographer shooting the spectacle from the river’s edge.  Is it an osprey? A hawk?   After several adrenalized minutes and countless audible clicks of his long-lensed, camouflaged camera,  photographer Mark Seth Lender finally recognizes the intruder that started the aerial wrestling match in

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Courts Set Narrow Whistleblower Protections in Decision for Lamont

Does an employee have legal protection as a whistleblower if they report their suspicions of possible illegal activity before the feared bad act takes place?  In what is believed to be a precedent-setting case in Connecticut and a victory for Gov. Ned Lamont, a Hartford Superior Court judge this week said no. The ruling Tuesday by Judge Stuart D. Rosen dismissed the case of a state employee who sued the state to get his job back after being fired for what he calls his attempt to prevent illegal action by the former Commissioner of the state Department of Public Health

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State Finds No Evidence of Animal Cruelty in Show Horse Death

The death of a Lyme show horse last month at a boarding facility in Marlborough was due to an apparent natural aneurysm and not any suspected wrongdoing, the state Department of Agriculture has concluded.  In a 10-page report on the Sept. 3 death of Beatrix at Bridle Brook Barns, the department said it reached its conclusion based largely on statements from multiple witnesses who were at the barn that day, as well as the opinion of two veterinarians. The veterinarians did not examine the horse’s body, and the state did not seek to have it exhumed, state Animal Control Officer

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Unanswered Questions, Unreleased Documents Hamper Efforts to Explain Lyme Horse’s Death

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The cause of death and burial location of a Lyme show horse that died under unclear circumstances at a Marlborough boarding barn nearly three months ago remain a mystery to the horse’s owner as she awaits the results of an investigation by the state Department of Agriculture. And requests made more than three weeks ago to the department by CT Examiner for public documents under state Freedom of Information laws have gone unfilled. The requests are for reports of any previous inspections, complaints or investigations involving the Marlborough barn and the horse transporter that removed the horse’s body from the barn

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Jury Selection Begins for Federal Corruption Case of Former Energy Executives

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Were the ratepayers in six Connecticut towns “victims” in a federal criminal case against a group of former utility executives accused of stealing public funds to pay for lavish annual trips to the Kentucky Derby and golf outings at a West Virginia resort?  That is a key question that will be argued at the upcoming trial of five former officials of a Norwich-based public utility cooperative indicted on charges of theft and conspiracy in the case, recently-filed documents in U.S. District Court in New Haven show.  The defendants were on the board of the Connecticut Municipal Electric Energy Cooperative (CMEEC),

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CCM Pitches a Regional Approach to Federal Funding Opportunities

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It was going to take an awful lot of work to convert the former second-hand store in a Norwich strip mall into the barbershop that Carlos Ventura had long dreamed of owning.  But after weeks of gutting the storefront and surviving the setback of a burst water pipe, Carlos and his wife Brenda opened Ventura Barbershop earlier this month and couldn’t be happier with the unexpectedly strong business they are doing so far.  “We put in this place everything we’ve got,” said Carlos, originally from the Dominican Republic. “It’s my dream.”  Helping to realize his vision was a $10,000 check

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Lessons of Geese and Men in a Morning Field

NORTH FRANKLIN – The pre-dawn sky is just starting to brighten above the mowed hayfield where five camouflaged men go about their silent business. Some guided by headlamps, they plant perhaps a hundred Canada Goose decoys in the soft ground, hoping they’ll be an irresistible lure for live members of the species to fill the skies above their cornstalk hunting blind.  By the time the first deep orange sun rays spread across the bright green cover crop of rye, the men have taken their stations in the blind, eyes to the sky and shotguns at the ready.  The array of

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Lawsuit By Officer Alleges Pattern of Harassment in New London’s Police Department

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NEW LONDON – Threatening sticky notes left on the car of officer and State Rep. Anthony Nolan in the department’s parking lot started appearing in mid-September, soon after Nolan wrote a letter to the mayor and the newly-appointed police chief urging them to act on a gender-discrimination and sexual-harassment complaint by a female detective against two senior male officers. “Who’s gonna watch your back?” warned one of several notes left on his windshield or side-view mirror, Nolan recalled. “Be a cop not a politician,” Nolan said another read.  Nolan said the female detective’s frustration at the lack of action on

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Police Chief’s Suspension Reignites Issues of Racial Fairness in New London

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NEW LONDON – The abrupt suspension this week of the city’s recently-appointed first Black police chief has inflamed long-simmering tension and debate within the ranks and the city over racial fairness and the overall morale of the department.  Less than three months after his July appointment, Chief Brian Wright on Wednesday was placed on paid administrative leave following a complaint made against him that day that originated from within the department, which has about 70 officers.   Mayor Michael Passero, who issued the suspension, would not comment Friday on the nature of the complaint, but said in a statement that he

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Lamont Challenges Whistleblower Protections of Former DPH Spokesman, Av Harris

Av Harris tells CT Examiner that he fully believes he did the right thing when he tried to blow the whistle on what he saw as possible illegal interference in a Bridgeport murder case by the commissioner of the state’s Department of Public Health, where he served as media spokesman and legislative director until the end of last year. But less than 48 hours after he alerted the Office of Gov. Ned Lamont about his concerns, he said, he was out of a job. A former journalist and veteran political operative perhaps best known for his role as spokesman for

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A Restoration Effort to Support Shellfishing off Guilford

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GUILFORD – Shellfisherman Kim Granbery chose winding Hoadley Creek to grow seed oysters because of what he calls its exceptional mix of near-pristine salt and fresh water, flowing over a bed of fertile silt deposited for millennia among the Thimble Islands. “The oysters like brackish water as opposed to higher salinity,” Granbery said on a recent afternoon as he steered his skiff around the rocky islands to check on his underwater crop. “Marine biologists tell me this is one of the cleanest estuaries in the state, and that’s what creates the unique character and taste of these oysters.” Restoring and

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Questions Remain as Dept. of Agriculture Moves to Close Investigation of Death

The Connecticut Department of Agriculture has made a preliminary decision that cruelty did not play a role in the death of a Lyme show horse at a Marlborough barn last month, but the owner of the horse has questioned the thoroughness of the investigation, saying that she still has not been told the location of the body. “I have not been able to find any evidence of cruelty in the matter,” Tanya Wescovich, the state animal control officer, wrote Dana Ramsey Maxwell, owner of the 7-year-old horse, Beatrix, in an email this week. “Both the state’s veterinarian and Dr. Sears

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Employees Claim a Pattern of Abuse at Groton Utilities

GROTON – According to disciplinary records obtained by CT Examiner, complaints by employees of Groton Utilities suggest a pattern of hostile and abusive behavior including bullying, tantrums and threats, that led to the ongoing suspension of Director Ron Gaudet. A number of attempts to reach Gaudet for comment have been unsuccessful. “You don’t know what you’re doing … I am gonna be your worst f….ng nightmare,” Gaudet threatened one employee as he pounded on his desk, according to one employee complaint. “I will sign your retirement paperwork and walk you out the door right now,’ he screamed at another employee

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Mysterious Death, Missing Body Spark Department of Agriculture Investigation

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The mysterious, bloody death and burial of a show horse owned by a Lyme woman at a “luxury” boarding facility in Marlborough early this month has led to an investigation by the state Department of Agriculture. Dana Ramsey Maxwell says she has had nothing but unanswered questions about the fate of her 7-year-old registered Hanoverian, Beatrix, since she received a text message on Sept. 3 telling her the horse had died that morning. Calls and messages to the stable have not yet been returned. “I just want answers,” said Maxwell, who has raised and shown horses since she was a

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Turmoil at Groton Utilities as Leadership Goes Missing

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GROTON – The head of city-owned Groton Utilities, which serves thousands of customers in southeastern Connecticut, has been placed on indefinite administrative leave pending an investigation, according to sources at the utility with direct knowledge of the matter. Ronald Gaudet, an Old Lyme resident and former Navy officer, Pfizer engineer and director of facilities at UConn, has not been seen for more than a week at the utility he has led since 2015, these sources say, but the nature of the investigation was unclear Friday. Attempts to reach Gaudet at his office today were directed to the office of Groton

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Driven Indoors by Pandemic, Finding Relief on the Trails

“I need to get out of the house or I’m going to lose my mind.”

That is how Kristina White bottom-lines the motivation for a pandemic-driven explosion of visitors to the 20 trails and preserves she oversees as executive director of the Lyme Land Trust.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen this many people outside in the winter,” White said after returning home from a morning hike herself. “It’s a huge uptick and they’re coming from all over the state. When I drive through town on the weekends the parking lots are full and now it’s on weekdays, too. That’s never

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