State prosecutors say that Mayor Eddie A. Perez expedited more than $1 million in payments to the city contractor who allegedly did discounted work on his home.
But in a document filed this week at Superior Court in Hartford, Perez's attorneys say the mayor alone did not have the authority to expedite the checks. And the checks had good reason to be expedited, they said — they were late, or they needed to be spent lest the city face tax consequences or they were cut to the wrong vendor.
"The mere fact that the mayor issued requests for checks on behalf of Costa does not demonstrate the existence of a quid pro quo," the attorneys wrote.
Perez was arrested in January on bribery and evidence fabrication charges related to the work done on his home by city contractor Carlos Costa. Costa, who charged Perez roughly $20,000 for what Costa said was $40,000 worth of kitchen and bathroom work, said he never expected to get paid; Perez has said he always intended to pay, although he didn't do so until investigators began their work. Costa was also arrested on bribery and other charges.
Both men have pleaded not guilty.
But as the state works to show that Perez received a quid pro quo from Costa — discounted home improvements in return for expedited payments from city hall — the mayor's attorneys say the state isn't playing fair.
In their amended memorandum filed Monday, Hubert Santos and Sandra Snaden Kuwaye said that "information was knowingly and intentionally, or with reckless disregard for the truth, excluded by the state in the arrest warrant affidavit."
The main thrust of the new argument deals with requests for four expedited payments made by the city on Costa's behalf. In one case, Perez asked his staff for expedited payments for what former Finance Director Thomas Morrison referred to as a "hot item" in his grand jury testimony, Perez's attorneys wrote. In another case, he asked for manual checks.
Citing testimony from Morrison, Deputy Finance Director Christian Johnson and City Treasurer Kathleen Palm Devine, Perez's attorneys say that "the mayor could only ask" for expedited payment.
He could not, by law, make it happen.
Besides which, the quick payments were often needed to correct city errors, they said. Therefore, "the mayor did not provide Costa with a 'benefit,'" his lawyers wrote, regarding one check. "The city merely fixed its own mistake."
This is the second version of the motion to dismiss filed with the court. The first motion was filed in February, and it took issue with the state's argument that Perez intervened to help keep Costa on his flagging Park Street project and not put his professional insurer on notice.
Another new argument concerns whether Perez knew he was underpaying for the work on his home. His lawyers say he didn't.
"Costa also never testified that he told the defendant that the real market value of the work done at the defendant's home was closer to $40,000" than $20,000, the court document says.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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