Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and the local Newtown foundation overseeing the distribution of donations made following the Sandy Hook shooting have fundamental disagreements on how those funds should be allocated.
The Newtown-Sandy Hook Community Foundation was created to administer donations following the Dec. 14 shooting when a gunman murdered 20 school children and six educators at a Newtown elementary school. The foundation absorbed a United Way fund set up immediately after the shooting and now has more than $11 million.
The foundation was set to vote Monday on a plan to distribute $7.7 million to the families of the 26 victims who were killed in the shooting as well as staff members who were wounded and 12 surviving children who were in classrooms entered by the gunman.
The governor, who said he has had a number of meetings with administrators of the funds, sent a letter to the foundation Friday saying he appreciated the group’s work but felt the remaining donations should be distributed by an independent party.
“I remain deeply frustrated at both the pace and the manner in which the Foundation has approached decisions on how best to distribute these funds,” Malloy wrote, adding that members of the Newtown community agree with him. “Our shared belief is that your choice to rely primarily on community members to make these decisions has unintentionally made the process more difficult, especially on those most directly affected.”
Asked about the letter following an unrelated Monday press conference, Malloy said hiring a third party to distribute the funds would ensure that people could have “real faith” in the decision making regarding how the money is distributed. He said his administration has been urging Newtown residents since December to hire an independent organization to allocate donations.
In his letter, Malloy said a third party administrator would have lent a “balance of neutrality and emotional distance” to a difficult process.
“For whatever reason, they decided not to do that and it’s gone through several iterations of how to handle it with different people playing different roles and I just think it would have been better for the families… if this had been turned over to a third party,” he said Monday.
Patrick Kinney, a spokesman for the foundation, said his group has met several times with the governor but suggested a disagreement between the board’s vision for the fund and Malloy’s.
“As the governor states in his letter, he has consistently advocated for a quick distribution of the funds under the foundation’s stewardship to the families most impacted by the Sandy Hook School shooting of Dec. 14, 2013,” Kinney said in a statement. “The board has had multiple opportunities to discuss this issue with the governor and has consistently attempted to articulate the origin and nature of the fund.”
Kinney said the foundation first aims to help those families most affected. He pointing to the $7.7 million the fund is poised to distribute to 40 different families. As part of that distribution, each of the 26 families who lost someone to the shooting are expected to be given $281,000.
But he said the foundation was also created to help with the short and long term needs of the Newtown community. There were more than 400 students in the school at the time of the shooting. School staff and first responders may also need assistance, he said.
“The remaining funds will be used to support services that are need based, and will help all affected by the tragedy, not excluding any who received compensation in the first round of funds,” he said.
The governor said he has had conversations with the families directly impacted, who are still in pain. But he stressed that he was not weighing in on the issue to influence specifics like how much each families receives.
“This is not about money. I’m not intending to get into the discussion about who or how much or whatever, what I’m talking about is the process,” he said.
Kinney, who points to lingering issues in Columbine, Colorado 14 years after its deadly high school shooting, said the process should stay local. He said community foundations are best managed by people who can assess the long term needs of the community and the students, staff, and responders impacted.
“It is unfortunate that the governor is unwilling to put his faith in local control,” Kinney said.