Hartford Mayor Arrested in Corruption Probe
Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez was arrested today on charges of bribery and fabricating evidence in connection with renovations at his home by a city contractor. WNPR's Anna Sale reports.
Just after ten in the morning, Mayor Eddie Perez walked into a State Police barracks in Hartford to turn himself in. The Chief State's attorney had obtained a warrant for his arrest. Perez was released and is scheduled to appear in court next Tuesday.
The charges stem from renovations at Perez's home that began in 2005. A contractor with many city projects did the work. Prosecutors value the kitchen and bathroom upgrades at 40-thousand dollars. The warrant says Perez paid the contractor half that amount after investigators questioned him about the work.
In fact, prosecutors say that in a June 2007 interview, Perez assured investigators he could produce a cancelled check showing he had paid for the work. Within two hours of that interview, the warrant says Perez was at a credit union, applying for a home equity loan to pay for home renovations. At a press conference, Perez said he has never traded his office for private benefit, but he apologized for creating the appearance of impropriety.
"I should have never used a city contractor to conduct improvements in my home. It was inappropriate and inexcusable."
Perez said he will not resign. He referred questions to his attorney Hubert Santos. Santos said the state has failed to prove that the mayor gave the contractor anything of value in exchange for the work on his home.
"Were mistakes made? Well, the Mayor has already acknowledged those mistakes to you. But but if you're going to destroy an administration, particularly run by one of the few minority mayors in the state of Connecticut. The least we can ask of the state of Connecticut's office is to allege a crime."
The city contractor, Carlos Costa, and a former city employee, Edward Lazu, also face bribery charges. Lazu, who oversaw contract compliance for the city, was laid off in November. Attorneys for both men say they will plead not guilty.
- View the arrest warrant for Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez here.
- View video of the press conference below from CPTV
Can Hartford City Council vote to remove the Mayor?
While Mayor Eddie Perez maintains his innocence on corruption charges and says he won't resign, Hartford City Council may have a say in Perez's future. Click on the Real Player link to below to hear a report by WNPR's Lucy Nalpathanchil:
Mayor Perez's party holds the majority on City Council with six Democrats. Two Working Families party members and one Republican round out the nine-member panel. While it's unclear how the majority of city lawmakers feel about Mayor Perez staying on the job, former minority leader of Hartford City Council, Dr Robert Painter says the city charter gives council members the power to remove the Mayor.
"You have to have a majority of council people to bring charges and such charges could be for neglect or dereliction of official duty or incompetence, dishonesty, incapacity to perform such as sickness or some delinquency. And then a vote of seven members to remove the Mayor from office."
If the Mayor is removed, the Council President would become Mayor until the next scheduled regular election or special election. Painter says if Council disagrees on the person who would be next in line, a majority of council, at least five members, could vote for a new Council President. Currently, that man is Democrat, Cal Torres who says he stands by the Mayor. Torres says City Council may gather later this week for a special meeting to talk about the recent events. Painter, a Republican, says he thinks Perez should not resign because he has yet to be found guilty.
- To view the process City Council would need to follow to remove the Mayor from office, go to Chapter 4, Section 3 of the Hartford City Charter (page 17)