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President Of Hartford Council Survives Vote To Remove Him

STEVEN GOODE

February 04, 2009

Hartford city council member Matthew Ritter said it was time for a different set of leadership skills, while Majority Leader rJo Winch insisted she wouldn't participate in a political lynching.

But council member Luis Cotto may have come closest to the bottom line at Tuesday's special meeting to discuss stripping council President Calixto Torres from his leadership position because of his alliance with Mayor Eddie A. Perez, who on Tuesday pleaded not guilty to bribery charges.

"The only reason we are here is because one side thinks they have six votes and the other side doesn't believe they have six votes," Cotto said of the number of votes on the nine-member council needed to oust Torres. "I'm going to vote no because I'm not comfortable with the way this is happening," he said.

And with that, Cotto who, along with his fellow Working Families Party member Larry Deutsch, had minutes before issued a written statement calling for Torres' resignation effectively ended the discussion. His vote left the council one vote short of the six needed to remove Torres.

Republican Veronica Airey-Wilson abstained. Democrat Winch joined Torres and Cotto in voting against Torres' removal.

Ritter, Kenneth Kennedy, Pedro Segarra, Jim Boucher and Deutsch voted to remove Torres.

Tuesday's meeting capped a week of caucuses, position changes, promises and lobbying among council members in the wake of Perez's arrest last week in connection with allegedly deeply discounted work done at his home by a city contractor.

Ritter, Segarra and Kennedy took advantage of the upheaval in the aftermath of Perez's arrest to mount an effort to remove Torres from his council presidency, citing his close ties to Perez and saying that he is unwilling to work with the council. The three have also said that the council needs to show the residents of Hartford that it takes the allegations against the mayor seriously.

But Torres, who initially agreed to resign and avoid public embarrassment when he was told that his adversaries had the six votes they needed to remove him, reversed course at the end of last week and vowed to stay on through the end of his two-year term.

In a written statement released Friday, Torres said he was "deeply troubled" by the three Democrats' attempt to remove him. He said he found the move based on the allegations against Perez "particularly offensive" because there were no allegations that Torres himself was involved in any illegal activities.

On Tuesday, Torres vowed that he would consider any successful vote to remove him "null and void."

Following the failed vote, Kennedy said he believed going into the meeting that there were enough votes to remove Torres.

"It was my understanding that Luis would be voting with us," Kennedy said, adding that despite what Cotto said, the vote was not about politics.

Kennedy said he didn't anticipate a second attempt to remove Torres.

"I don't think I want to put anyone through that again," he said.

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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