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Sound Bites: Why did Connecticut public defenders quit?

 Attorney General William Tong.
Molly Ingram
Attorney General William Tong.

Good morning! An independent investigation is underway as to why most members resigned from a Connecticut board that oversees the state’s public defenders. They didn’t give a reason last week. 

But attorneys told the Hartford Courant the resignations were connected to disagreements with the state’s chief public defender. TaShun Bowden-Lewis took the job last year. State Attorney General William Tong’s office said he has hired a law firm to investigate allegations made within the public defender’s office.

Here’s a bite-sized look at what else we are hearing:

The Connecticut State Capitol Building is in need of a $54 million restoration. Gaps in the exterior stone have caused water damage on several floors. The 145-year-old building was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1972.

A Suffolk County program will help low-income diabetics purchase fresh fruit and vegetables. The 3-month long pilot program was launched on Friday. Participants in the Sun River Health Center’s nutritional classes will receive $20 vouchers to purchase fresh produce at a nearby grocery store. About 600 people are expected to take part.

The Bridgeport Board of Education is planning a walkthrough of Harding High School, which closed in 2018. This comes after a YouTuber revealed the school was full of equipment, desks and supplies presumably left behind when it closed. The district’s interim superintendent told Hearst Connecticut Media that officials would do a site visit to see if salvageable items were left behind. They didn’t announce a date for the visit.

The Episcopal Diocese in New York will issue a formal apology for the church’s role in slavery. The “Service of Apology for Slavery” will be held during a ceremony in the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in Upper Manhattan, with the apology several decades in the making. The diocese comprises 184 parishes, setting aside $1.1 million from the church’s endowment as “seed money” for the future.

Westport, Weston and Wilton have joined forces to form one of Connecticut’s first mental health partnerships. The Counseling Assistance Program will help residents 12 and up access mental health treatment. By sharing the cost, the three towns will be able to offer more services.

An alleged MS-13 member has been sentenced to 20 years to life in prison for two Hempstead shootings in 2020. Denis Gutierrez-Marcos, or Inqueto, 20, pleaded guilty in February, to second-degree murder, attempted murder, and criminal possession of a weapon. Gutierrez-Marcos fled both scenes before being arrested by the Nassau County Police Department Gang Squad in June 2021.

U.S. Reps. Nick LaLota (R-NY) and Joe Courtney (D-CT) were named co-chairs of the bipartisan Long Island Sound Caucus. The Caucus will address issues revolving around the Long Island Sound, including conservation, water, fishing, transportation, and energy. “Protecting the sound is not a partisan issue, it is an issue important to all Long Islanders,” LaLota said.

Suffolk County Community College is calling for state budget relief and more state investment in SUNY’s two-year campuses. Due to the pandemic, state funding for community colleges is falling short amid poor enrollment percentages. Faculty Association President Dante Morelli said the state’s community colleges are seeking a $22.6 million increase in base funding with a proposed executive budget of over $400 million.

Sixteen students are graduating Tuesday from a program for New Yorkers with disabilities to advocate on their own behalf. The students, between ages 20 and 65, attend Family Residences and Essential Enterprises, one of Long Island's largest nonprofit adult care facilities, and are completing the first Self-Advocacy Association of New York State (SANYS U) University graduation since before the pandemic.

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Clare Gehlich is a news intern at WSHU for the spring of 2023.