Conn. AG sues to stop New York group's land grab‏

Nick Rees Nov. 25, 2009, 5:00am

Richard Blumenthal (D)

HARTFORD, Conn. (Legal Newsline) - Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has filed a lawsuit to stop a New York group from illegally seizing a 160-acre property in Litchfield owned by the Connecticut Junior Republic.

The property is currently used by the Connecticut Junior Republic for educational and vocational programs serving youths who are at risk academically, socially and emotionally. Troubled youth have been served by the charity at the site since 1904. The site includes a working farm, barns, dorms, a school, an administration building and a water treatment facility.

The William George Agency for Children's Services, inc., of Freeville, N.Y., cited a provision of a 1915 deed in its May effort to move to confiscate the property. The agency, in a letter to Blumenthal's office, noted that it serves high risk children including sex offenders and severely disturbed children and suggested that it would use the facility to house them.

The William George Agency's predecessor, the George Junior Republic Association of Freeville, N.Y., which was part of a national network caring for unwanted and troubled children, acquired the Litchfield property in 1900 through a will.

A separate Connecticut Junior Republic, created in 1904, was deeded the property in 1915 by the George Junior Republic Association of Freeville, N.Y. The deed returns the property to George Junior Republic Association of Freeville, N.Y., or its successors, if Connecticut Junior Republic failed to use it to assist troubled children.

The WIlliam George Agency filed a claim and notice of forfeiture on Litchfield land records on May 22 without contacting Connecticut Junior Republic. William George Agency alleged that Connecticut Junior Republic was in violation of the 1915 deed by failing to operate a residential facility - a temporary situation caused by state budget cuts.

Blumenthal has argued that the William George Agency's interpretation of the deed is wrong, strongly disputes and opposes the New York group's claim and has asked the court to declare Connecticut Junior Republic as the rightful owner of the property.

"I will fight this illegal, inexcusable and inexplicable land grab, threatening to cripple Connecticut Junior Republic's critical services," Blumenthal said. "This venerable, vital institution is endangered by this grossly inappropriate attempt to seize the property. The New York group apparently seeks to transform a school for kids needing support and structure into a facility for youthful sex offenders and severely disturbed, high risk youth. The William George Agency is threatening a model public service provider that has assisted thousands of troubled young people for more than a century."

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