The Hartford contractor who renovated Mayor Eddie A. Perez's bathroom and installed new kitchen countertops confirmed Friday that state criminal investigators searched his office three days earlier, the same day they searched Perez's home.
Carlos Costa, president of USA Contractors Inc., confirmed in a statement much of what Perez had said the day before - that he began work in the Perez home in 2005, paused intermittently because of the poor health of the mayor's wife, that he worked on the kitchen and bathroom, and that Perez paid him in full last month.
The nature of the state's investigation is unclear, but Costa - who does millions of dollars of business with the city and the Hartford Parking Authority - said investigators told him they were interested in the timing of his bills to Perez and in some of the bills themselves.
On Thursday, Perez acknowledged that state investigators searched his home earlier in the week, seeking information about work that Costa had done on his home. He also said he was wrong to hire Costa.
"In hindsight, I shouldn't have used a city contractor," Perez said. "That was a mistake."
Perez has retained the law firm of Santos & Seeley.
According to documents Perez released, Costa began work on his house in early 2005, but it wasn't until February of this year that Costa billed him $20,127 for the job. Perez paid the bill in July, after getting a loan against his house to do so, he said.
City land records show that Perez finished paying his $142,000 mortgage on the Bloomfield Avenue home in February.
Costa's 10-person company works as both a general contractor and an installer of marble and granite countertops, he said. His company was the low bidder for a Park Street streetscape improvement project in 2003.
In his statement, Costa said that the mayor's involvement in the home renovation project was "very limited," and that the mayor's wife, Maria, supervised the project. The project is now all but complete, save for some minor details, Costa said.
Costa said state investigators wanted to know why he delayed billing the mayor; he told them it was because of his "sensitivity to the mayor's wife's health problems." Maria Perez suffered multiple brain aneurysms in June 2005.
"Homeowners are often slow to pay contractors, and this case was no exception," Costa said.
Investigators were particularly interested in a bill that a subcontractor sent Costa for stone and ceramic work at Perez's house, Costa said. That bill lists work at Perez's house, as well as bills for a club Costa owns.
In his statement, Costa said investigators suggested he charged the mayor's work to other projects. But Costa said he properly billed Perez for the $750 in work the subcontractor did on the mayor's home and that there was no impropriety.
Costa also said that the failure to get a building permit for the project was the result of a misunderstanding between him and the mayor.
Finally, Costa said the roughly $20,000 bill he sent Perez was a fair one, adding that while the mayor could have shopped around for a better price, he benefited from having a friend work in his home.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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