Lies, Corruption, and Fraud:
The following outline presents an overview of the corruption and fraud committed by Branford town officials and the independent peer review firm during the Costco inland wetlands application:
After a six-year public battle, the Town of Branford settles a civil rights lawsuit with citizen Wayne Cooke over property rights violations and discriminatory taxation by First Selectman Anthony DaRos. Cited in the suit were DaRos’ actions to illegally steer development–specifically Costco—away from the Cooke property in retaliation for Cooke’s criticism of DaRos’ administration.
With DaRos not seeking reelection, James Cosgrove is elected first selectman largely on his campaign promise to bring Costco to the Exit 56 area where the Cooke property is located.
After several months of presentations and public hearings, the Branford Planning & Zoning Commission approves the Costco master plan on the Cooke property by a 3-2 vote. The two dissenting votes, John Lust and Joseph Chadwick are DaRos loyalists.
Costco applies for Inland Wetlands Commission approval.
The Inland Wetlands Commission selects the engineering firm of Milone & MacBroom to conduct the independent peer review of Costco’s application.
Branford Citizens for Responsible Development (BCRD), a group formed to fight Costco on the Cooke property and headed by Penny Bellamy–DaRos’ former campaign manager, town attorney, and political advisor–files with the IWC for intervener status.
Public hearings open and are conducted over the next two months, during which Costco testifies that any attempt to reduce the size of the store will kill the project. BCRD members—armed with that knowledge– repeatedly make the case to the Commission for a reduction in project size.
An investigation by The Branford Seven reveals that Inland Wetlands department director Diana Ross; Inland Wetlands Commission chairman, Daniel Shapiro; and peer reviewers Milone and MacBroom conspired to insert the objections of BCRD into the peer review. The evidence shows the purpose of this conspiracy was to deny Costco’s approval and ensure that the decision would hold up in court. A detailed account of these events appears in The Branford Seven under the headline:,“Corruption, Collusion, and Lies Mar Inland Wetlands Peer Reviewer in Costco Application.”
Costco releases a statement expressing “disappointment by the documents that have been made public, which raise questions about the fairness of the third party review.” First Selectman James Cosgrove promises a full and complete investigation into the peer review matter.
Calling the revelations of wetlands corruption and fraud “stunning” “highly prejudicial” and “unfair” Costco withdraws its application.
At a selectmen’s meeting, Cosgrove is asked about the status of the investigation and responds that he cannot speak about personnel matters or release information that could put the town at risk. As of this writing, no report has ever been released by the Town, and Diana Ross—the central figure in the fraud and corruption—remains director of the Inland Wetlands Department.
With no public comment provided by Costco since withdrawing its wetlands application several months earlier, a letter is sent by Costco to Cosgrove stating Costco will not be continuing its efforts to place a store “on the Cooke property”. The letter is the standard form letter sent by Costco when withdrawing from a project, and no further explanation is given.
Since Costco’s withdrawl, however, a number of emails and other statements provide confirmation of Costco’s reasons for leaving. All of these echo their sentiment, expressed at meetings between landowners and Costco representatives, that Costco will not return because, in their words, the Branford wetlands process remains “corrupt”–a fact evidenced, as one Costco official put it, ”because Diana Ross is still there.”