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Questions Raised: Recipient of a multi-million dollar tax-payer funded package of loan and grants

by Jon Pelto, Wait What

Last week Governor Malloy and Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Catherine Smith traveled to South Windsor for the grand opening of TicketNetwork’s new headquarters to announce that TicketNetwork would be the recipient of a multi-million dollar tax-payer funded package of loan and grants.

You can find my original wait, what? blog here:

At the press conference, Governor Malloy referred to Don Vaccaro, TicketNetwork’s CEO as a “serial entrepreneur” and suggested we needed more people like him who “ in their very fiber, their very bone marrow, have the ability to come up with great ideas, great concepts, bring to the market place, prove them and grow them.”

DECD Commissioner Smith also heaped praise on TicketNetwork saying “I’m going to speak to the residents of our state for a moment because I want you to know that these are very good investments of our tax dollars to help companies grow in this state.”

The entire day was intended to be a love fest of economic development, that is until Hugh McQuaid, of CTNewsjunkie, raised some incredible issues.

Earlier this year, McQuaid published a news story about the extraordinary turn of events surrounding Vaccaro and TicketNetwork when they sued Bushnell CEO David Fay for remarks he made at a legislative hearing about TicketNework and other ticket resellers.

The CTNewsjunkie reporter also raised questions about a lawsuit filed by a former TicketNetwork employee against Vaccaro and the company for alleged, repeated sexually harassed she had received from Vaccaro between July and December of 2009. The employee claimed she was then fired when she complained.

Commissioner Smith said she wasn’t aware of the sexual harassment lawsuit.

The Governor’s office said that he too was away of the suit.

The Governor’s spokesperson went on to dismiss the issue completely saying it was irrelevant to today’s announcement.

Wait, What?

According to the DECD Commissioner the agency reviews a lot of information about companies when they apply for economic programs. She told the reporter that that despite that process, they did not know about the suit in question.

You mean to say Connecticut’s economic development agency doesn’t check court records to determine if there are previous or pending law suits against the company or its senior executives.

Wow, even a simple Google search might have helped.

Certainly the Governor’s Office and the DECD’s senior staff must have been aware that in the recently concluded legislative session the leadership of the General Law Committee held a press conference to pull the legislative initiative that was being pushed by TicketNetwork and other secondary market ticket sellers after the company sued the head of the Bushnell for his comments during a General Law Public hearing.

At the time, State Senator Paul Dolye, Co-Chair of the General Law Committee, was quoted as saying “For the first time, clearly in the history of Connecticut and maybe nationwide, a lawsuit was filed during session about comments made at a public hearing, where legislatures look for open and free-flowing comments about bills.”

And State Representative Joseph Taborsak, the Committee’s other co-chair added “ It’s our duty to do what’s best for the process and the citizens and we felt we could no longer do it because there was not a free flowing discussion of ideas,”

As if that wasn’t enough to raise serious questions, a simple internet search would also have revealed that TicketNetwork is facing a class action case in New York for violating New York’s Arts and Cultural Affairs Law.

And closer to home, it turns out that when TicketNetwork was trying to gain approval for a “controversial 2,000-seat outdoor concert venue”, the company demanded that the Journal Inquirer remove the Vernon reporter covering the story because, according to them, she was “biased”.

In his inimitable style, Chris Powell, the Manager Editor of the Journal Inquirer Managing Editor rejected the request.

I’m no expert, but my guess is that when a private company approaches a bank for a loan the lender is interested in any pending lawsuits.

The standard certainly shouldn’t be lower when the private company is being given our tax dollars.

Be sure to read the CTNewsjunkie coverage at: