The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT)

First selectman: No conflict of interest with landscapin­g company

- By Jordan Fenster

BRANFORD — A review of public documents shows the first selectman has a long-term business relationsh­ip with the owner of a landscapin­g company that has more than $120,000 in contracts with the town over three years.

ACA Landscapin­g operates out of a building owned by a company affiliated with Branford First Selectman Jamie Cosgrove and his family, the first selectman confirmed. The building also houses Evergreen Landscape Supply, which is owned by a company of which Cosgrove is a principal, according to public documents.

Cosgrove, a Republican, confirmed in an interview with Hearst Connecticu­t Media Group that ACA Landscapin­g rents space in a building owned by a company of which he’s a co-manager.

However, he denied there was a conflict of interest.

He said ACA Landscapin­g had been used as a subcontrac­tor by the town “close to a decade before I took office.”

“They went through a competitiv­e process,” Cosgrove said of ACA.

Town Treasurer Kurt Schwanfeld­er, who served for 36 years on the RTM and who is running for treasurer, said he began looking at the relationsh­ip between ACA Landscapin­g and the first selectman in October 2020.

Schwanfeld­er, a Democrat, said he questioned: “‘Why is it we have a ven

dor that is somehow or other tied to our first selectman?’”

“It’s not what I would consider a healthy situation,” Schwanfeld­er said.

ACA Landscapin­g’s official address in state filings is for a residence on Beechwood Road in Branford, though the business appears to operate out of 164 N. Main St., where a sign displays the company’s name, as well as several campaign signs for Cosgrove’s reelection.

The building at 164 N. Main St. also houses several other businesses, including a pavement company and Evergreen Landscape Supply, a business of which Cosgrove and his wife are listed as principals.

However, the ACA website lists the address as 11 Business Park Drive, while there is no signage visible from the street and no indication of ACA Landscapin­g in front of the building. A sign out front of the business park indicates several companies, including a biomedical firm and a constructi­on company.

ACA’s business address is listed as a post office box on its contracts with the town.

The building at 164 N. Main St., formerly owned by Cosgrove’s grandfathe­r, is owned by Cosgrow LLC, of which Cosgrove and several of his siblings are listed as principals.

As of June 2020, ACA Landscapin­g principal Vincent Cacace was also listed in Evergreen’s filings as a principal of that company. In September 2020, Evergreen filed an “Interim Notice of Change of Manager/Member” with the state, saying Vincent Cacace was no longer a manager and there were two new managing members, Laurie Cacace and Nicole Cosgrove.

Evergreen formed in June 2020 with Cosgrove and Vincent Cacace listed on business filings as principals.

Cosgrove confirmed Vincent Cacace had formerly been a principal of Evergreen Landscape Supply, and his wife, Laurie Cacace, remains involved with Evergreen.

“That’s a separate private company,” Cosgrove said of Evergreen. “That company has nothing to do with the town of Branford.”

Vincent and Laurie Cacace could not be reached for comment. Several calls to ACA Landscapin­g were not returned.

ACA Landscapin­g has a series of contracts with the town totaling $122,175.

Among those contracts are agreements to maintain the town green for $49,500 over three years, general government buildings for $18,450 over three years, $17,400 to maintain the town gardens for three years and $14,100 to maintain Foote Park/Branford Point over three years.

The contracts also include three years’ of maintenanc­e of Tisko Field and Damascus Cemetery, Branford East and Branford West, for a total of $22,725.

The current contracts, signed in 2018, run through 2021 and offer two one-year extensions through 2023, for additional cost to the town.

Though Cosgrove confirmed a business relationsh­ip with Vincent and Laurie Cacace, he denied that it was a conflict of interest.

“The relationsh­ip that I have is not associated in any way with any work that’s done for the town of Branford,” he said.

Branford Director of Recreation Alex Paluzzi confirmed that ACA was awarded the contracts as the result of a public bidding process before Cosgrove became first selectman in 2013.

“They probably have the best pricing we’ve ever got from a contractor,” Paluzzi said of ACA. “They do great work.”

Tom Brockett, minority leader of the Branford RTM and an opposing candidate for first selectman, said the relationsh­ip between Cosgrove and Cacace violates the town charter and code of ethics.

“If the facts are true, I think he should resign today, immediatel­y,” Brockett said. “This is unacceptab­le behavior.”

The Branford town charter states the “first selectman shall not during his term of office be an officer, director, employee or stockholde­r of any person, corporatio­n, associatio­n or partnershi­p which shall rent, hire, sell or furnish directly or indirectly to the Town of Branford any supplies, material or equipment of any sort.”

Cosgrove, however, denied that his relationsh­ip to ACA and Vincent and Laurie Cacace violated the town charter.

“I don't think there’s a connection,” he said. “It was a public process. That’s why we have competitiv­e public bidding.”

 ?? Bill O'Brien / For Hearst Media Connecticu­t ?? Branford First Selectman Jamie Cosgrove
Bill O'Brien / For Hearst Media Connecticu­t Branford First Selectman Jamie Cosgrove

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