April 28, 2007
By DANIEL E. GOREN, Courant Staff Writer
City Council President John Bazzano said Friday he is considering an investigation into allegations that Hartford Mayor Eddie A. Perez told a developer to take care of a North End political operative, resulting in a promised $100,000 payoff.
Bazzano said he planned to discuss the council's options with its members within the next few days.
"We are going to sit down and discuss it at this point, though nothing definite has been decided," he said. "I'd like to get to the bottom of this, one way or the other. We just want to make sure we get to the truth, get to the bottom of it, clear the air and put this behind us."
By charter, the city council can investigate "the official conduct of any department or agency of the City government or of any officer or employee." Bazzano said he would also consider asking the city's internal audit commission to investigate.
Developer Joseph Citino was negotiating with city officials to acquire city land at Main and Trumbull streets, adjacent to a privately owned building that Citino wanted to buy and demolish. He planned to use both properties to build condominiums.
North End political boss Abraham L. Giles has rented the city-owned parcel and operated it as a parking lot for more than a decade. But Citino and Perez have differing memories of a May 2006 meeting where they discussed Giles.
Citino says he offered to pay Giles $100,000 to vacate the parking lot after Perez told him to "satisfy Abe or there's no deal here."
Perez said he did ask Citino to meet with Giles, but only to work toward a short-term agreement that would allow the parking lot to operate until construction on the site got underway. Perez said he never asked Citino to pay Giles. .
"I'm very clear about what I did," Perez said Wednesday. "There's no way he could have misunderstood."
A day after those clashing versions were reported in The Courant, city hall and local politicians on Friday were mostly silent.
Perez and his staff made no comments, only issuing a press release late in the day repeating what Perez's chief of staff had said late Thursday: The mayor sent a letter Monday to Chief State's Attorney Kevin Kane, asking him to investigate the real estate deal.
Kane confirmed Friday that he had received the letter but would not say more. His office is investigating a separate parking deal between Giles and the city, in which Giles got a no-bid contract from the Perez administration to run a 225-space lot downtown.
One of Perez's six challengers in the upcoming Democratic primary, I. Charles Mathews, said he was dismayed at the news and called on city voters to demand "accountability" of their leaders.
"What I see personally, as a lawyer for the last 30 years, is a pattern, a practice that seems to be coming out of this administration," Mathews said. "Here we have the mayor of our city, and his administration, who should be focused on major issues of concern to our city, and what are they doing? Sitting down in a smoke-filled room, cutting private deals for their cronies."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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