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Audit's underway on Bridgewater Fair raffle

Published 5:18 pm, Wednesday, January 30, 2013
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Is it possible a decision to keep First Selectman Bill Stuart on the raffle committee for last year's Bridgewater Country Fair led to an audit by the state?

Mr. Stuart is sure a complaint made to the state Department of Consumer Protection regarding the raffle was aimed at his participation on the committee.

"I can't imagine that they're doing it for any other reason than to get Bill Stuart," he said Tuesday. "It's all about revenge and the people involved don't seem to care what organization in town they hurt."

Mr. Stuart has been the target of a series of public accusations about mismanagement of the town during this four-year term in office. He has served as first selectman in Bridgewater for 30 years.

An audit was conducted by the state on the fair's raffle on Jan. 24, according to Eric Gsell, chief of the Bridgewater Volunteer Fire Department, which hosts and benefits from the event.

Claudette Carveth, a spokesperson for the Department of Consumer Protection, said Tuesday the department never discusses an ongoing investigation nor does it confirm if an investigation were to be ongoing.

Depending on the violation, an administrative hearing may be held and sanctions enacted, Ms. Carveth said. Those sanctions could include a prohibition from conducting raffles or a referral for criminal prosecution.

"We had no concerns this might happen," Mr. Gsell said. "We looked at the financials for the raffle and had no concerns."

Despite an FBI raid conducted on Bridgewater Town Hall in early July, Mr. Gsell said there had not been any discussion in the department about Mr. Stuart serving on the raffle committee for the August fair.

Mr. Gsell said he did not know who filed the raffle complaint, but had been told the audit was in response to a complaint and was not a random audit conducted by the state.

"We provided the state with everything it asked for and answered their questions without knowing any specifics about the complaint," he said.

Mr. Gsell said, to his knowledge, the annual raffle had never been audited before.

The raffle brought in $16,000 in 2012, offering a grand prize of a Chevrolet Equinox.

Mr. Stuart, a longtime member of the fire department, has been a regular member on the fair's raffle committee.

Mr. Gsell remained optimistic about the audit. He said the results are expected in a month's time.

"We're a small department," Mr. Gsell said. "Anything that improves our operations, we welcome it -- whether it has to do with the fair or our day-to-day operations."

stuz@newstimes.com; 860-355-7322