Question: Did the Malloy administration inappropriately aid and abet Moales’ in his successful effort to get a third daycare facility license on his property?
Question: Did Mayor Finch and his top staff help Moales get around zoning and code requirements for his new daycare facility?
Question: Although Moales was caught inappropriately billing taxpayers for more than $75,000., did Moales still collect more than what he was legally allowed to collect?
And the most important QUESTION of all… Are children in a daycare center and church run school that does not have a permanent certificate of occupancy and did not meet the legal requirements to be licensed?
These questions all arise from files of new evidence that has surfaced.
The documents raise the specter of potentially legal and financial wrongdoing by Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr. and his family as it relates to their newly acquired, state financed daycare center. The new center joins two others that are owned and operated by Moales’ family and rent space from Moales.
The fact is that every month, the taxpayers of Connecticut shell out tens of thousands of dollars in payments to a series of daycare centers own by the Moales family, all of which are housed on church property that is owned and operated by Kenneth Moales.
Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr. is a key political ally of Mayor Bill Finch and Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy.
Moales served on Malloy’s illegal Bridgeport Public School Oversight Board and then won a seat on the re-constituted board thanks to Mayor Bill Finch. As a Bridgeport Board of Education member, and eventually as its chairman, Moales who was one of Paul Vallas’ biggest supporter and helped move the public school privatization effort that was designed by Vallas and Stefan Pryor, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education.
The newly acquired documents call out for an independent investigation into whether Moales or others violated civil and criminal laws.
For those unacquainted with the Moales daycare center saga, in August 2013 Moales’ mother and sister received approval for their third daycare facility license. All three daycare centers rent space from Moales’ church and taken together, the three facilities are costing taxpayers upward of $1 million a year.
As previously reported here at Wait, What?, the newest daycare center is steeped in controversy and the additional documents indicate that the new daycare center, and the church run K-8 day school which is housed at the same location, never acquired the proper zooming approvals and are functioning in a building that was never granted a permanent certificate of occupancy, a requirement that must be met in order for these facilities to be open.
But despite the apparent lack of appropriate zoning and occupancy permits, Governor Malloy’s Department of Public Health, with input from the Department of Education, granted the Moales’ family their third daycare facility license last summer…knowing that it did not have the necessary zoning and occupancy permits.
As further background, the August 15, 2013 state daycare license was granted ten months AFTER the Moales family was supposed to have opened the new facility as part of a no-bid multi-million dollar contract that they received in connection with Governor Malloy’s 2012 early childhood initiative.
In the fall of 2012, Moales’ mother and sister were given 60 of the 72 new early childhood slots that Governor Malloy gave to Bridgeport through his 2012 Early Childhood Initiative.
This lucrative contract was given out despite the fact that Kenneth Moales Jr. served as a member of the Bridgeport Board of Education at this time and the Bridgeport Board of Education serves as the fiduciary agent for this state program.
However that ethical problem is minor compared to the bigger issues related to the inadequate zoning approval and lack of occupancy certification.
The new documents clearly make the case that the Bridgeport Fire Inspectors Office has been raising significant concerns about the building that houses Moales’ newest daycare facility (and the school) for years.
It was November 17, 2009 when the Fire Marshall”s office first realized that the building was in use without a Ccertificate of occupancy.
More concerns were raised in September 2011 when the inspectors discovered that the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit had moved their school to the location in August 2011.
Yet despite identifying fire code issues, Moales’ church school remained open.
A year later, on July 2, 2012, Bridgeport’s Fire Marshall issued an official letter to the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit noting code violations and demanding that corrective action be taken within thirty days.
The Fire Marshall’s report further noted that “Certificate of Occupancy Not Completed” and the letter states that while there were two classrooms in the original architectural drawings, drawings, “I saw seven classrooms therefore 5 are illegal change of use.”
The documents further indicate that while Moales’ family submitted their daycare facility application in February 2013 to the State Department of Public Health, which is obligated to license and monitor daycare centers determined that the application was inadequate and needed, among other things, proof of proper zoning and a permanent certificate of occupancy.
In an odd twist, on February 28, 2013, days after the Moales application for a new daycare license was submitted, Kenya Moales Byrd (Kenneth Moales’ sister) filed an application with the City of Bridgeport for a Certificate of Zoning Compliance to “add two classrooms,” to the church to facilitate the new day care. While that zoning application was approved, the proper documents were never submitted to the Building Permit’s Office and therefore the classrooms were never inspected and never received a Certificate of Occupancy.
In addition, the building itself still didn’t have the permits needed to run a daycare center or a school and did not have a permanent certificate of occupancy.
At about the same time, Moales’ Kingdom’s Little One’ Daycare Center started invoicing for the additional slots they that they had been granted in the fall of 2012.
But in July of that year, the State Department of Education discovered that the daycare center appeared to be double billing and an audit was conducted which led to the determination that the Moales family had inappropriately billed the state by at least $75,000. The State Board of Education ordered the Bridgeport Board of Education to repay the funds and take the necessary steps to recoup the ill-gotten money from the Moales daycare facilities.
Although Kenneth Moales Jr. had become Chairman of the Bridgeport Board of Education by this time, the Board was never notified of the audit or its findings.
The complete lack of any Certificate of Occupancy also came to light in the summer of 2013 after the Connecticut Post featured an article about the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit’s failure to obtain even a temporary Certificate of Occupancy, as required by state law.
As news broke about the lack of any Certificate of Occupancy for the church and its activities, local officials moved with lightning speed to help Moales get a temporary Certificate of Occupancy.
The newly acquired documents trace a series of emails that track back to the highest levels of Bridgeport City Government.
At one point, the City’s Zoning Enforcement Officer emailed the City’s top building official stating, “I see no reason not to approve of a temp. C/O.”
But interestingly, these same city officials never indicate that Moales lacked the most basic zoning approvals for a daycare center or the school.
In yet another incredible series of emails, Mayor Bill Finch’s top staff appears to be trying to intimidate the city’s professional staff into moving quickly to grant Moales’ the approvals he needs. The email trail includes Adam Wood (Finch’s Chief of Staff), Adam Nunn (Chief Administrative Officer) and David Kooris (Bridgeport’s Director of Economic Development).
But what makes the intrigue behind the whole issue even more noteworthy is that although the Connecticut Department of Public Health had made it clear, in writing, that Moales would need proper zoning approval and a permanent Certificate of Occupancy before a daycare facility license could be granted, the license was, nevertheless, given to Moales without those documents on August 13, 2013.
Although it is clear that something was moving the process along, the documentation fails to clarify who in the Malloy administration had intervened on Moales’ behalf or how the agency decided to give a license for a facility that failed to have the proper zoning approvals and failed to acquire a permanent Certificate of Occupancy.
By that point, state official knew that Moales had “inappropriately” billed the state $75,000 and had consistently failed to acquire the proper zoning permits and certificates of occupancy…and yet the additional license was granted and Moales further ramped up the amount he was billing taxpayers…all while the safety and well-being of the children at the daycare center and in the K-8 school housed at 729 Union Avenue in Bridgeport remained in question.
While a full-fledged independent investigation is needed into the whole situation, Sauda Baraka and the new majority on the Bridgeport Board of Education are taking their own action to determine whether Kenneth Moales Jr. is violating Bridgeport ethics rules by serving on the Board of Education while he is connected to entities that are making money from funds controlled by the Board.
For that story see the CT Post’s Board wants legal opinion on Moales
It also remains to be seen whether the State Department of Public Health will take enforcement action to close the new daycare center until it meets all of its legal requirements and if the State Department of Education will pursue a full refund from the Bridgeport Board of Education for all the payments that were inappropriately made to the Kingdom’s Little Ones Academy.
What hangs in the balance is the question of whether the Malloy administration will continue to provide cover to Kenneth Moales Jr. and his daycare operations or whether it will reverse course and ensure that state laws are equitably enforced and taxpayer funds properly monitored.