Tall ship Amistad faces funding questions in Connecticut

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Connecticut legislators are demanding a full accounting of the millions of state tax dollars that have been invested in the tall ship Amistad and have called for the state to stop funding the vessel until the group in charge of the ship explains how the money is being spent.

State Rep. Diana Urban, D-North Stonington, made the demand for a full accounting and state Sen. Andrew Maynard, D-Stonington, said Thursday that Amistad America should answer questions about how it has spent the money allocated to it and outline how it plans to become financially stable, according to The Day in New London.

The Day recently reported that the ship, which was built with state funds to tell the story of captive Africans who escaped slavery and were declared free by the U.S. Supreme Court, is being used in Maine to teach sailing and that its parent organization has lost its tax-exempt status.

Maynard commended Urban for pressing the state Department of Economic and Community Development to detail how Amistad America has spent the $8 million in state taxpayer money it has received for the construction, maintenance, programming and operation of the vessel.

Amistad America lost its tax-exempt status after failing to file tax returns for three years. It no longer is based in New Haven, it has no office or website and its board is inactive.

The Day filed a Freedom of Information request with the Department of Economic and Community Development on Thursday, seeking an itemized list of all state funding and bonding given to Amistad America from 1994 to the present, as well as all correspondence, including any letters, emails and attached documents between Amistad America and the Department of Economic and Community Development during the last six years.

The state Department of Economic and Community Development gave the group $1.9 million during the last four years, plans to make payments totaling $359,000 a year to Amistad America during the next two years and made payments this year despite questions from the Internal Revenue Service.

Click here for the full report.

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