As a local group prepares to distribute $7.7 million in donations to families of Newtown school shooting victims, Connecticut's governor is expressing frustration with the process and wants an independent party to handle the remaining nearly $4 million in donations.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy wrote a letter to the Newtown-Sandy Hook Community Foundation on Friday, saying he hopes families are not precluded from receiving additional money.
Twenty-six children and educators were killed in the massacre Dec. 14, and more than $11 million was raised afterward with the help of the United Way. The foundation was asked to divide the money and decided to divvy up $7.7 million to the families and survivors.
At a public hearing last week, some questioned the process for arriving at the $7.7 million for the families and why all the money wasn't going to the victims. Some victims' families have also complained the process has caused them anguish by putting them in the difficult place of deciding how to divide the money.
Malloy said the foundation and others involved have acted with the best of intentions during difficult times. But he said he's made clear that a third party would bring "a balance of neutrality and emotional distance."
"While I appreciate your efforts, I remain deeply frustrated at both the pace and the manner in which the foundation has approached decisions on how best to distribute these funds," Malloy wrote.
He said he's heard that sentiment from Newtown residents and others as well.
"Your choice to rely primarily on community members to make these decisions has unintentionally made the process more difficult, especially on those most directly affected," he wrote.
A foundation spokesman countered that the fund was created to help those most affected by the shooting, including families, surviving students and first responders and is best managed by local people who understand their long-term needs.
"It is unfortunate that the governor is unwilling to put his faith in local control," said foundation spokesman Patrick Kinney.
He said the remaining money will be used to support the needs of those affected most, which doesn't exclude anyone who has already received money.
A draft proposal released last week calls for their families to receive $281,000 each. Families of 12 surviving children who witnessed the shootings would each get $20,000; two teachers who were injured would get $150,000 between them. Kenneth Feinberg and Camille Biros, special advisers to a distribution committee appointed by the foundation, made the recommendations.
The distribution committee was expected to finalize the draft proposal Monday. The $7.7 million is expected to be paid out next month.