Feds: Derby Botched Opera House Grant

CORRECTION This story initially referred to “work done” at the Sterling Opera House, when actually the issue is with a renovation “plan” for the opera house. The story was revised.

Derby must pay $110,000 to the feds for improperly accessing grant money for the Sterling Opera House.

The Derby Board of Aldermen voted unanimously Thursday to approve a settlement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Derby received a “Save America’s Treasurers” grant in 2010.

The money was used for ongoing renovations a renovation plan at the historic Sterling Opera House on Elizabeth Street.

“Save America’s Treasures” is a grant program within the National Park Service.

FILE PHOTOGrants come with requirements. This one required Derby to get an approval from the National Park Service before withdrawing grant money.

The approval process includes submitting project reports and financial reports to the National Park Service.

In September 2013, the city submitted paperwork to request a $150,000 reimbursement for work related to the Sterling Opera House.

However, in January 2014, the feds denied the request because the work done plans for the Sterling Opera House did not comply with the federal standards for the “treatment of historic properties.”

Despite receiving a “no” regarding the $150,000, the city withdrew $100,000 anyway, according to the settlement.

Derby should have contacted the National Park Service to talk about “how to comply with the requirement of the grant agreement.”

The city “admits each of the Government’s allegations,” according to the settlement agreement.

Two investigators arrived in Derby last year asking questions about the Sterling Opera House money.

The settlement also notes that in January 2013 Derby withdrew $10,000 from the grant without submitting the required paperwork.

In order to scuttle a lawsuit, Derby agreed to pay the feds $110,000.

The feds gave the city a timetable to pay off the debt:

  • $40,000 is due Feb. 1.
  • $40,000 is due Feb. 1, 2018.
  • $30,000 is due Feb. 1, 2019.

The settlement agreement does not go into specifics about the improper work done plans at the opera house, a building that is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. A public affairs person at the Department of the Interior is researching the issue and said Friday she would get back to the Valley Indy this week.


An email with additional questions was sent Friday morning to five Derby officials, including Mayor Anita Dugatto.

This story will be updated if the questions are answered.


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