Local elected officials called on the Connecticut Resource Recovery Authority Wednesday to abide by a Superior Court judge’s decision to award the 70 Mid-Connecticut Project towns $35 million for its part in the botched $220 million deal with the now-bankrupt Enron Corp.
Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez, West Hartford Mayor Scott Slifka, and New Hartford Selectman William Baxter, whose town was the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, asked the state trash agency not to appeal Judge Dennis Eveleigh’s decision.
“CRRA should do the right thing,” and return the money to the towns, Perez said. Slifka said there’s been a sense of arrogance on behalf of the individuals appointed to CRRA’s board of directors that they can make these decisions, such as the Enron deal, without consequence to the towns and taxpayers.
But CRRA President Thomas Kirk, who was hired after the botched Enron deal by a board of directors that cleaned up the former board’s mess, said Wednesday that CRRA’s board of directors intended to give the money back to the towns in January before the judge’s decision.
He said the board voted to give a portion of a settlement in an Enron-related lawsuit directly back to the towns and use the remainder of the money to lower the tipping fees the towns pay through their tax levies.
The attorney for the towns, Stamford lawyer David Golub, said he finds CRRA’s generosity in January “curious.”
Kirk said CRRA plans to move forward with its appeal. He said whether CRRA wins or loses the $35 million is going back to the towns.
It’s just a matter of perspective.
He said if CRRA loses its appeal then the towns will receive the $35 million minus the 22 percent the judge will award in legal fees to Golub, who represented the towns in this lawsuit on contingency.
Kirk said if CRRA isn’t able to hold onto a portion of the $35 million the towns will see their tipping fees go up.
Golub disputed that tipping fees would increase as a result of the decision.
Golub said CRRA was able to set a budget in March without using this $35 million that’s been held in escrow under a judge’s order.
But CRRA holds firm on its position that “Money paid out to the towns as a result of this lawsuit will mean higher disposal fees in the years to come.” Kirk said Wednesday that “The money has to come from somewhere.”
Kirk said under CRRA’s plan before the court ruling $15 million would have directly gone back to towns and the remainder of the Enron related settlement would have been used to lower tipping fees, which have remained steady since the sale of the Enron bankruptcy claim. By lowering the tipping fees CRRA is giving direct relief to the towns who levy the tipping fee through their property taxes.
But Perez contended that this is the taxpayers money that they were forced to give up because of the decisions CRRA made. Golub said CRRA forced towns to pay extra money to help it recoup the debt it created when it made the deal with Enron.
Golub said the fact remains “CRRA hasn’t paid a penny,” and “has not lost any money,” as a result of the botched deal.
Kirk said CRRA has recovered almost all of the $220 million it lost to Enron and used the money to pay off debt and stabilize tipping fees.