March 2, 2007
By DANIEL E. GOREN, Courant Staff Writer
A no-bid deal Hartford Mayor Eddie A. Perez gave a political power broker to run a city-owned parking lot may be sweeter than previously thought.
The $1,000 monthly rent that Abraham L. Giles is paying to manage a downtown parking lot is based on 14-year-old rates, according to the city corporation counsel's office and Giles.
The agreement, signed by Perez and Giles on Nov. 1, allows Giles to run a 225-space parking lot in downtown Hartford. The rent was based on the $500 monthly rent Giles has been paying for 14 years to operate a nearby lot that is less than one-fifth its size. The rent on the smaller lot has not been raised since that deal was signed in 1993.
The inflation rate since 1993 is 42 percent.
Under the 1993 contract, Giles pays $12.50 per parking space for the smaller lot. Because the new lot is so much larger, the cost per space is far less. However, officials at the city's parking authority say they have seen a daily average of just 90 to 100 cars parked at the bigger lot.
"Yes, the current deal is based on the older deal," Giles said Wednesday. "And I don't see how the city is going to get any more than that from anybody else."
Sarah Barr, the mayor's director of communications, said in an e-mail that the city corporation counsel's office negotiated the deal "based on numbers received from the Finance Department, and the mayor was confident in the staff's ability to negotiate this temporary agreement as they had done in many other cases."
The mayor has filed papers to run for re-election in 2007 but faces competition from fellow Democrats who want to unseat him in a primary.
Perez has faced mounting political pressure over the potentially lucrative parking deal, which the mayor signed without a bidding process and without showing it to the city council.
His critics say it is an example of old-style political patronage. Despite interest from the city's own parking authority, the mayor chose to award the lot to Giles, a former state representative who is said to control key votes in the city's Democratic town committee.
Giles Wednesday said he had not committed to supporting a mayoral candidate.
Perez has said the 18-month deal was signed to give the city flexibility should a developer be interested in developing the 3-acre parcel together with other city-owned land nearby. The city can end the deal with Giles on 30 days' notice, Perez has said.
But since the deal was first revealed, Perez has made moves to back away from it. He asked the city council to review a proposal by the parking authority to take over and rebid management of the lot. He has also asked the council to approve an ordinance that would give the council the power to reject such agreements. Both matters are still being discussed by the council in committee.
Giles said Wednesday he would fight attempts by Perez to rescind the deal, despite the city's 30-day exit option. Giles said he was told when signing the document that the 30-day clause would be used only if the city found a developer who wanted to build on the land - words he believes the city should be held to.
"They legally have the right, but I also think I have the legal right to fight it," Giles said.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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