Connecticut Takes Over the Schooner Amistad


HARTFORD (CN) - A Superior Court judge on Thursday approved Connecticut's application for receivership of Amistad America, the group that manages a replica of the two-masted schooner taken over by African slaves in 1839.
     The African captives were awarded their freedom by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1841, an early legal victory in the quest for equality.
     Amistad America Inc. did not object to the appointment of the receiver. Its board of trustees on Tuesday adopted a resolution supporting Attorney General George Jepsen's application.
     The court order prevents the leadership of Amistad America from taking actions on behalf of the corporation during the term of the receivership.
     The state recently audited the group and found that it had squandered its endowment despite state contributions of more than $379,000 a year.
     The audits faulted the organization for lacking controls necessary to ensure proper accounting and recordkeeping. The group lost its tax-exempt status with the Internal Revenue Service several years ago when it failed to file its 990 forms.
     Jepsen said he does not blame the current leadership of the organization for its predicament, though they have "demonstrated an inability to properly manage the affairs of Amistad American." He said he is not aware of or suggesting any "intentional malfeasance" on behalf of the organization's leadership.
     "This is an important and necessary step to assure the people of Connecticut that there is appropriate oversight of the Amistad and that this vessel is living up to its educational mission," Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said in a statement. "The Amistad represents not only an important chapter in our state's history, it's a symbol of how far we've come as a nation in pursuit of individual rights and freedom. We look forward to continuing our work with the attorney general and to working with the receiver to protect this state asset."
     Jepsen, who filed the action on behalf of the state said, "The Amistad is an important piece of Connecticut's history and cultural heritage.
     "We will seek to continue the receivership until the public can be assured that its money is being properly used and accounted for and that a plan exists for the organization to responsibly carry out its mission into the future."
     The order gives control of Amistad America to the state's receiver, Katharine B. Sacks of New Haven. In addition to assuming all responsibilities for the day-to-day maintenance and operations of the Amistad, Sacks will work with the state and other stakeholders to assess and provide recommendations on the next steps to address the Amistad's debts and rebuild the organization.