Governor Dannel P. Malloy, in a letter to the Newtown-Sandy Hook Community Foundation, Inc, has expressed his frustration with the foundation’s pace and manner of decisionmaking in terms of distributing funds, which the group has collected to benefit those people affected by the 12/14 Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings.
In the July 12 letter, Gov Malloy wrote, in part, “While I appreciate your efforts, 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.”
“It is a sentiment that I have heard from individuals in the Newtown community and elsewhere in our state,” he added.
“Your choice to rely primarily on community members to make…decisions has unintentionally made the process more difficult, especially on those most directly affected,” he said.
“Empowering an experienced, independent third party to oversee and administer this fund would have brought a balance of neutrality and emotional distance to this difficult process,” he said.
Under a draft proposal presented at a public forum on July 11, the families of each of the 26 victims of the 12/14 shootings would receive $281,000 in donated funds.
Also, under those preliminary recommendations, the families of the 12 surviving children who were in the classrooms where the shootings occurred would receive $20,000 each. Also, two teachers who were injured in the incident would divide $150,000.
Those proposals for fund distribution would cover $7.7 million of the overall $11.6 million in donated money whose disbursement is being overseen by the foundation.
A committee to be formed soon would recommend how the remaining $3.9 million in funds would be used to address the long-term needs of the community for services such as mental health therapy. Such funds would provide services for people including students who were at the school when the incident occurred, teachers, school staffers, and first responders to the incident, such as police, fire, and ambulance personnel, among others.
The foundation and its three-member distribution committee was scheduled to meet privately on the evening of July 15 to consider the draft proposal for $7.7 million in fund distribution to the 40 most-affected families.
That draft proposal was formulated by mediator Kenneth Feinberg, who is special advisor to the committee. Mr Feinberg served as an advisor to the committee at the request of the affected families.
The foundation’s final decision on distributing the $7.7 million in compensation is expected to be made public late this week.
In his letter, Gov Malloy wrote, “Now that $7.7 million is set to be distributed in the coming weeks, the remaining funds under the foundation’s control ought to be distributed by a truly independent third-party administrator. I ask that this administrator be charged with developing an objective, reasonable, and consistently applied formula to be used in dispending the remaining funds.”
“I fully realize how difficult your task has been, and that there are no easy or simple solutions to be found,” he added.
The Foundation’s Response
In response to the Gov Malloy’s letter, foundation spokesman Patrick Kinney provided a statement.
“The fund was created to help support those most affected by the tragedy – first and foremost the families who lost a loved one, but also to help with both the short- and long-term needs of all others impacted, which includes the 400-plus surviving students of Sandy Hook Elementary School, the school staff, first responders, and others in the community,” Mr Kinney said.
“The forty families who were most profoundly impacted are being directly financially supported with the first $7.7 million,” Mr Kinney 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,” Mr Kinney added.
“A community fund is best managed by local people who have knowledge of what needs all those impacted are facing, and to ensure the fund will look to the long-term needs of the children, first responders, teachers, staff and their families. It is unfortunate that the Governor is unwilling to put his faith in local control,” Mr Kinney said.
On July 11, Alan Nevas, a former federal judge who heads the $7.7-million fund distribution committee for the foundation, said the three-member panel met privately with some families affected by the tragedy just before the July 11 forum.
The July 11 forum was held to solicit public comment on the proposed fund distribution.
All claims for the $7.7 million in tax-exempt funds must be submitted by August 2. Checks would be issued to recipients by August 15.
Several people spoke at the Edmond Town Hall forum.
Robert Accomondo, representing the charity known as My Sandy Hook Family Fund, said that many local residents wish that the workings of the foundation had been more “transparent” in determining that $7.7 million would be the amount designated for the families most directly affected by the tragedy.
Mr Nevas said the distribution committee was given the task of deciding how to distribute the $7.7 million by the foundation. The distribution panel did not decide on that $7.7 million amount, Mr Nevas stressed.
Jeffrey Dion, representing the National Center for Victims of Crime, endorsed the disbursement proposal that would provide funds to the families of the children who witnessed the crime.
Caryn Kaufman, representing a coalition of shooting victims in past incidents across the nation, asked why all of the $11.6 million in donated funds is not being given to the victims’ families. Those families should receive all of the donated money, she stressed.
Ms Kaufman asked how the remaining $3.9 million of the overall $11.6 million would be distributed.
The foundation was formed to oversee the distribution of money that had been received by the Sandy Hook School Support Fund. That fund had been jointly established by the United Way of Western Connecticut and the Newtown Savings Bank.
Mr Kinney said July 15 that members of the public would be recruited to serve on the second distribution committee. That panel’s membership likely will be larger than that of the first distribution committee.