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October 16, 2015

Hartford Dev. Dir. Deller quits amid collapsed stadium deal

Two days after Hartford City Council President Shawn Wooden called for his resignation following the sudden and embarrassing collapse of the Dillon Stadium redevelopment, Hartford Director of Development Services, Thomas Deller, has resigned.

His last day with the city is Oct. 31, the mayor’s office announced late Friday.

Deller’s resignation comes three days after the City Council voted to pull its support for the redevelopment of Dillon Stadium into a professional soccer stadium, following revelations that the project’s developer has a 16-year-old felony conviction for embezzlement and more recent legal judgments for unpaid debts.

Hartford's Chief Operating Officer Darrell Hill will serve as acting director of development services, the city said. 

“I appreciate and am grateful for all of Thom’s years of service,” said Mayor Pedro Segarra. “He has worked extremely hard and has lead the efforts for several successful projects such as the Intermodal Triangle, Downtown North, Strong Cities, Strong Communities challenge (SC2), modernizing our permitting system, initiating the modernization of our zoning code, Coltsville, UConn, and several CRDA developments including 777 Main Street, “Sonesta”, and Capewell. Given recent events, however, I believe he has made the right decision for him and for the City of Hartford.”

The Hartford Courant reported this week that Somers resident and former arena football player James C. Duckett, who heads Black Diamond Consulting, was convicted in 1999 for embezzlement, related to work he did for a staffing agency.

News of Duckett's legal problems come after a previous developer for Dillon Stadium sued the city, alleging officials wrongfully terminated its "preferred developer" status on the project. The suit is still open.

In addition to Duckett's felony conviction, Duckett lost a handful of civil judgments totaling $119,000, the Courant reported.

Hartford had allocated $12 million in its budget over the next three years to redevelop the 9,600-seat stadium. Duckett and his partners had pledged to secure private financing and had also hoped to bring a pro soccer team — Hartford City FC – to play in the new stadium as a member of the North American Soccer League.

The developers announced in August that Hartford City FC would play 10 games at the XL Center starting next month, as a member of the Major Arena Soccer League. Capital Region Development Authority Executive Director Michael Freimuth said Thursday that CRDA was cautious with the language in its agreement with the soccer team. He also said the deal has been negotiated but not executed.

"We're assessing the situation in light of yesterday's story," Freimuth said. "Because we recognized that there is quite limited experience across the country with indoor soccer use of arenas, we included protective language in our agreement with Hartford FC eliminating financial risk to the building that requires early payment upfront for use of the facility prior to any event."

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