Gov. Ned Lamont addresses legislators at the State Capitol during his annual budget address on Feb. 9, 2022. Photo courtesy of the office of the governor.

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont acknowledged Monday he helped hire a landscaper that illegally chopped down more than 180 trees and thousands of bushes on a property behind his Greenwich home, capping off days of questions about his level of involvement.

The wealthy two-term Democrat along with one of his neighbors and a neighborhood organization have been accused of removing trees in protected wetlands – property they do not own – to get a better view of a pond. Lamont denied that charge, telling reporters on Monday the trees were damaged in previous storms and the plan was to clean up the area. Yet he admitted partial responsibility for inadvertently cutting trees on someone else’s land.

“I think at the end of the day, I’m responsible and the [neighborhood organization] is,” Lamont told reporters after appearing at an unrelated event at Bridgeport Hospital on Monday. “They hired a contractor to do the work, and I think the contractor went beyond the scope a little bit.”

Lamont said he expected the landscaping company hired by himself and the neighborhood group, known as the Ashton Drive Association, would have obtained any needed permits with the town of Greenwich. He told reporters he also didn’t realize local permission was needed to remove what he considered dead trees.

“Now I know and it will never happen again,” he said.

Lamont and the neighbors were issued a cease-and-desist order to stop cutting the trees in November after the sound of chainsaws was heard by a property manager for another undeveloped piece of land where part of the culling took place. The manager said the tree-cutting “went far beyond destruction of wetland vegetation,” according documents posted by the Greenwich Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Agency.

Fred Jacobsen, property director of the land owned by INCT LLC, property that used to be owned by the Rockefeller family, said it appeared the “massive cutting effort” had been going on for multiple days and that he saw more than 10 workers cutting and clearing trees and bushes. Access to the site had been provided through property owned by Lamont’s neighbor, wealthy businessman Alexander Vik and his wife Carrie, according to the wetlands commission minutes.

Jacobsen told the commission “the people involved knew they would never be allowed to do this, if they had applied for a permit, so they did it anyway.” He said there was a plywood path laid out for trucks and a wood chipper.

“When Mr. Jacobsen walked over, the entire group of workers started running from the area and grouping up to leave the premises,” according to the commission minutes.

Lamont and his neighbors could eventually be fined by the town.

At a special meeting held Monday of the Inlands Wetlands and Watercourses Agency, members focused more on efforts to reach an agreement on how best to replant the property. Jacobsen says no expense should be spared to restore the site as closely as possible to how it was before, according to the minutes. He said 186 trees were cut down.

Lamont, who has been out of state since news of the illegal tree-cutting came to light, has been criticized for not publicly explaining what happened beyond a brief statement last week saying the matter “is a dispute between the homeowners association and one of the neighbors.”

“If it was me, but I’m really not in a position to be able to cut down that many trees, but I probably would have gotten out in front of this. This happened in November. They should have had a better response by now,” House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora, a Republican, said Monday.