Hartford, Conn., Mayor Arrested on Bribery Charges

AP, January 27, 2009

Hartford’s mayor turned himself in Tuesday on charges of having a city contractor do $40,000 in work at his home and paying for it only after being confronted by investigators.

Eddie A. Perez, a native of Puerto Rico and the first Hispanic mayor in the city’s history, called his conduct inappropriate but said he did not commit a crime. He pledged to remain in office.

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Perez, the Democratic mayor of Connecticut’s capital city since 2001, was charged with receiving a bribe and falsifying evidence.

The contractor, Carlos Costa, told investigators he believed he would be shut out of lucrative city contracts had he not done the work for free, prosecutors said Tuesday.

Costa, who was awarded a $5 million city streetscape contract, did the kitchen and bathroom renovations at Perez’s home in 2005. Perez paid $20,000 for the work in 2007, but only after being questioned by a grand jury probing possible corruption in city government, prosecutors said. Neither Costa nor Perez obtained building permits for the work, prosecutors said.

According to warrants in the case, investigators found “numerous instances” where Perez intervened in matters to help Costa, such as by pressing city workers to pay Costa’s bills faster than other municipal contractors.

Costa was charged Monday with two counts of bribery, fabricating evidence and conspiracy to fabricate evidence in connection to the case.

Perez is charged with receiving a bribe, fabricating physical evidence and conspiracy to fabricate evidence. The felonies can bring a maximum sentence of five to 10 years in prison if convicted.

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Another city hall employee, Edward Lazu, was charged with one count of receiving a bribe, fabricating evidence and three counts of forgery.

Costa did free driveway and sidewalk work for Lazu, who certifies contractors for city work, prosecutors said. Costa told investigators that he considered the work “the cost of doing business” in Hartford.

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Perez’s attorney, Hubert Santos, said the conduct outlined in the arrest affadavit doesn’t constitute a crime. He said the mayor always intended to pay for Costa’s renovation work, but that Perez was slowing in paying the bills because his wife became ill.

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