Golf resort

Utility officials on trial for Kentucky Derby and golf trips | Connecticut and area

NEW HAVEN — Several former utility executives are set to stand trial for conspiracy and theft stemming from trips they took to the Kentucky Derby and a luxury golf resort.

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

The co-op’s former CEO, Drew Rankin; former chief financial officer Edward Pryor; former Norwich Public Utilities chief executive John Bilda and former CMEEC board members James Sullivan of Norwich and Edward DeMuzzio of Groton face charges of theft and conspiracy for allegedly using money that was to be returned to the municipalities as a rate stabilization fund. They pleaded not guilty.

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

Defendants argue the money belonged to the co-op, which operates as a corporation and is authorized to pay for board pensions such as trips to the Derby and Greenbrier Golf Resort in West Virginia that are the subject of charges.

The story was first reported by The Bulletin in Norwich in 2016.

The co-op 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 documents filed with the courts, prosecutors said they would demonstrate that the trips were unrelated to the co-op’s mission to provide low-cost electricity rates to members, but were instead intended to benefit and to reward the defendants and their family members and friends, The Day reported.

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