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Utility officials face trial over Derby, golf resort trips

October 31, 2021 GMT

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — Several former utility officials are set to go on trial for conspiracy and theft stemming from trips they took to the Kentucky Derby and a luxury golf resort.

The trips were arranged by the Connecticut Municipal Electric Energy Cooperative for dozens of top staff, board members, family members and others from 2013 to 2016.

The cooperative’s former CEO, Drew Rankin; former CFO Edward Pryor; former Norwich Public Utilities General Manager John Bilda and former CMEEC board members James Sullivan of Norwich and Edward DeMuzzio of Groton face theft and conspiracy charges for allegedly using money that was intended to be returned to municipalities as rate-stabilization funds. They have pleaded not guilty.

A jury has been selected, and testimony is expected to begin Monday.

The defendants contend the money belonged to the cooperative, which functions as a corporation and is allowed to pay for board retreats such as the trips to the Derby and to the Greenbrier golf resort in West Virginia that are the subject of the charges.

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The cooperative receives federal funds and is owned by Norwich Public Utilities, Groton Utilities, Bozrah Light & Power, Jewett City Department of Public Utilities, South Norwalk Electric and Water and Norwalk Third Taxing District.

In court filings, prosecutors have said they will demonstrate that the trips weren’t related to the cooperative’s mission of providing low-cost electric rates to members, but instead were meant to benefit and reward the defendants and their family members and friends, The Day reported.

In a separate case, Sullivan and Rankin face conspiracy and theft counts for allegedly using nearly $100,000 in CMEEC funds to reimburse Sullivan for personal expenses, according to The Day.