Amistad America: State Funds Used Appropriately

Sep 13, 2013

The executive director of Amistad America Inc., a New Haven-based non-profit, asserts that all money it has received from the state has been used appropriately. Amistad America owns and operates the Freedom Schooner Amistad, and recently lost its non-profit status after falling behind in filing federal tax returns.

The organization recently faced questioning over how it used millions of dollars in state funds. Executive Director Hanifa Washington said over the past 13 years, $9 million has gone into the vessel.

"But of that $9 million, $2.5 [million] went into the actual building of the vessel," said Washington. "Another $2 million went into the renovation of the Amistad pier in New Haven, Connecticut." She said an additional $800,000 went to ship repairs, and the remaining $3 million went to operating subsidies.

"Every year, to run the organization and the vessel," Washington said, "it's about a million dollars. Just the vessel alone, if it's running and traveling, it's about $30,000 a month. So when you boil that down, there isn't this big mystery about what the organization did with $8 million."

In a report released earlier this week by DECD Commissioner Catherine Smith, Amistad's expenditures are listed. Smith said her state agency should have more legal authority to oversee organizations that receive state money.

A five-year audit of Amistad America is underway and is expected to be completed by November.