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Contractor Charged With Bribery Says City Owes Him $2.2 Million

JEFFREY B. COHEN

April 10, 2009

The city contractor who alleges that he did discounted work on the home of Mayor Eddie A. Perez in return for favorable consideration now says the city owes him nearly $2.2 million.

Carlos Costa of USA Contractors filed suit last week against the city at Superior Court in Hartford, citing breach of contract, unpaid change orders and unpaid work on what began as a $5.3 million Park Street streetscape job.

"We got tired of waiting to get paid," said Timothy Corey, Costa's attorney.

The city takes a different view.

"The only reason a suit was filed was to protect USA's claim in the event a settlement is not reached," said Perez's spokeswoman, Sarah Barr.

Costa was working on the Park Street job at the same time he was working on the kitchen and bathroom of Perez's home. Both men were arrested in January on bribery and other charges related to Costa's work at Perez's home. Costa has said that the work was worth $40,000 but that he never planned on getting paid. Perez paid him about $20,000, but only after state criminal investigators came calling. Both men have pleaded not guilty, and Perez's trial is scheduled for October.

The long-overdue project to give Park Street a face-lift with new sidewalks and light poles is largely complete.

But Costa and officials at the city's department of public works have been wrangling for years about the work. The federal government has withheld nearly $800,000 from the project because of what it said was the city's "totally unacceptable level of inspection" and other concerns.

At one point in 2006, frustrated city engineers determined that Costa's work was so far behind schedule that he had defaulted on his contract. To fix the situation, they tried to put his professional insurer on notice a potentially disastrous move for a contractor.

But the city changed course after Costa met in May 2006 with Charles Crocini then Perez's aide on capital improvement projects. Crocini intervened in favor of keeping Costa on the job, writing to the bond company that the city planned no immediate action against the contractor. Costa told prosecutors that the city did him a "big favor" by keeping him on the job.

Last December, Corey said that the two sides were close to a resolution. But things have apparently changed.

According to Costa's lawsuit, the contract's original price was $5.3 million but was later amended to $5.8 million. Of that, the city owes Costa $290,000, the lawsuit says.

Then, the city had Costa perform "extra and additional work" from adding extra catch basins to temporary asphalt, the lawsuit says. Add into that the rising cost of materials, and Costa says the city owes him $918,000 more.

Finally, Costa alleges 18 breaches of contract from hindering and interfering with the project's planned completion to permitting "Park Street merchants to interfere." That, Costa says, cost him an additional $729,000.

With other costs, the total Costa is seeking is $2.2 million.

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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