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Complaint: Hartford Mayor Perez Blocked Petition Effort

STEVEN GOODE

January 19, 2010

HARTFORD - Mayor Eddie A. Perez and a city police officer working under orders from Chief Daryl K. Roberts used their authority to prevent four members of a town Democratic committee challenge slate from collecting petition signatures, according to a complaint filed Tuesday with the State Elections Enforcement Commission.

The complaint alleges that on Jan. 13, Venice Sotomayor and Sammy Vasquez were turned away from the Fox Manor senior housing complex at 461Washington St. by property manager Edwin Lopez, who told them they could not collect petition signatures "unless we talked to Mayor Perez and get his permission."

They were gathering signatures needed to place the challenge slate on the ballot for the upcoming 4th District Democratic town committee election.

According to the complaint, later that day at 194 Washington St., challenge slate member Luz Torres Sullivan was met by a Hartford police officer as she entered the building to collect signatures. Sullivan, in an affidavit, said the officer told her that he "received direct orders from Chief Roberts not to allow me or any of my team on the premises to collect petition signatures," and was escorted out of the building.

Edwin Vargas, one of four complainants but not a member of the town committee challenge slate, said in an affidavit that he called the officer, who told him that he was "under orders to throw Ms. Sullivan out of 194 Washington Street."

Reached at a training session Tuesday, Roberts said he doesn't give orders to officers or get involved in politics.

"That never happened that never came from me," Roberts said.

Lopez also disputed the allegations against him, saying that he initially turned the petitioners away because he didn't know who they were and was protecting residents and the property. But once they were able to get a resident of the complex to escort them, Lopez said he allowed them to gather signatures and even helped them make copies of their petitions.

"I did nothing wrong. They came back and did what they had to do," Lopez said.

The complaint also alleges that on Jan. 10, Perez visited Torres Sullivan and told her that "she would be taken care of" if she dropped the challenge and that on Jan. 13, state Rep. Kelvin Roldan was allowed to gather signatures for his town committee slate at the Smith Towers housing complex while members of the challenge slate were told to leave the building.

Sarah Barr, a spokeswoman for the mayor, said Tuesday that the complaint was without merit.

"It's all part of people wanting to play politics," Barr said. "It often happens this time of year."

The complaint, filed by Hartford lawyer Bruce Rubenstein on behalf of the complainants, seeks to have Roldan's town committee slate and petition signatures invalidated and a referral to state and federal agencies for investigation and fines. Rubenstein is seeking election as Democratic town chairman.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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