Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez is two weeks away from jury selection in his corruption trial. Members of the Hartford city council say the mayor is continuing to perform in his job and that he plans to do so throughout his trial. WNPR’s Jeff Cohen reports.
Perez declined to be interviewed for this story, but in a statement, he told WNPR that he has a team in place to run the city regardless of whether he is around.
But while Perez’s supporters on the city council say the trial shouldn't affect the mayor's job performance, others on the council aren't so sure. Jury selection begins April 12th, around the same time the city begins its budget talks.
“I don’t think it’s possible for any human being, regardless of how good they can divide their time, that while they’re on trial they can actually be involved in a budget negotiation.”
That's Democratic Councilman Kenneth Kennedy. Council President Pedro Segarra, who is also an attorney, is next in line to the mayor’s office. He says he's had no conversations with the mayor about what could come next.
“I guess the assumptions are that they’re very positive that it's going to be a 'not guilty' verdict or that I can summarily close a 25-year-old law practice and land on my feet instantly as the mayor."
Councilman Matt Ritter says there will eventually be conversations on how to handle the mayor’s possible absence during trial.
“What probably will have to happen is we will have to work out some sort of protocols or systems. I mean, if there is someone who needs an immediate answer to something you may have to sort of figure out okay, who’s going to take over that issue, or you may have to redelegate some roles."
Perez was arrested twice last year. In January, prosecutors charged him with allegedly trading his influence as mayor with a city contractor for discounted work at his home. Later in 2009, Perez was arrested again and charged with attempted extortion. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Perez’s attorneys filed various motions with the court this week – one of which asks to postpone part of the trial, another which seeks to potentially move the trial out of Hartford after a jury is selected. A judge will likely hear those motions next week.
For WNPR, I’m Jeff Cohen.