Less than a week after a jury found Mayor Eddie A. Perez guilty on five felony corruption charges, a former city contract compliance supervisor arrested in connection with the same investigation received a special form of probation.
Judge Julia Dewey, who also presided over Perez's trial, said Wednesday that she granted former city employee Edward Lazu accelerated rehabilitation because it would be unfair to look at all city corruption cases the same way. If Lazu successfully completes the probation, his arrest record will be expunged.
"There are different levels of culpability. I can't deal with every individual in this process as if they're twins," Dewey said. "I don't think he's likely to offend again."
Lazu was accused of trading favorable treatment toward city contractor Carlos Costa in exchange for a new driveway at his Hartford home. He was charged in January 2009 with receiving a bribe, second-degree forgery and conspiracy to commit tampering with evidence. Costa has pleaded not guilty to bribery charges related to work he did on the homes of Lazu and Perez.
Lazu said he paid Costa $1,100 for work performed by Costa's company, USA Contractors, removing nearly 40 feet of sidewalk and putting down part of a stone driveway, according to court documents. But Costa testified that the job was worth at least $5,000, and that Lazu never paid him. An expert hired by the state later determined that the fair market value of the sidewalk and driveway work was $2,200, said Richard R. Brown, Lazu's attorney.
Prosecutors also alleged that Lazu certified USA Contractors to perform demolition and asbestos-abatement work even though the company's state licenses to perform that work had expired, and blocked efforts by subordinates to compel Costa to abide by prevailing-wage laws. Lazu lost his job after his arrest, Brown said.
Lazu received six months' probation and was ordered to pay $1,100 to the victims' compensation fund.
As part of the agreement, Lazu did not admit guilt in the case. He did, however, express remorse for his actions and acknowledged that what he did was unethical.
"I definitely regret the lack of judgment on contracting with a contractor that was doing business with the city, and the pain I have caused my family," Lazu said.
The cases of two others arrested in connection with the Perez investigation — Hartford Councilwoman Veronica Airey-Wilson and former state Rep. Abraham Giles — were continued to Aug. 10.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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