By JEFFREY B. COHEN, MATTHEW KAUFFMAN, DAVE ALTIMARI And DANIEL E. GOREN, Courant Staff Writers
August 28, 2007
The city paid nearly $10,000 to cart away tons of trash from the privately owned warehouse of a political power broker who has been at the center of several questionable deals involving the administration of Hartford Mayor Eddie A. Perez.
The deal has sparked the interest of state criminal investigators, who are also asking questions about the timing of the payments.
City records show that in February and March, Dainty Rubbish Service Inc. hauled away 18 full-size Dumpsters from a North End warehouse owned by Abraham L. Giles. The work was done several months before Giles won a city contract that called for bidders to make storage space available.
Alex Marcellino, a public works official who worked with Giles at the request of the mayor, said the city paid Dainty's bills four months ago as the result of a "misunderstanding." He said Monday that the city was now asking Giles for reimbursement.
Asked Monday about the payments, Perez said Giles called him for help cleaning the warehouse. The mayor then directed Marcellino to get in touch with Giles.
"He called, just like any owner," Perez said. "I didn't even ask him the details. I just said: `It's public works, send it over to Alex and let them deal with it the way they would normally deal with it.'"
Perez said that his involvement ended there. He said that if Giles benefited from city services, he would have to pay the $9,670 bill.
"He should be billed," Perez said. "If we provided a service to him, he should be billed."
The deal is being looked at by the same state investigators who two weeks ago searched the mayor's Bloomfield Avenue home and the office of a contractor who did roughly $20,000 worth of kitchen and bathroom work for Perez. That contractor - Carlos Costa - does millions of dollars of work with the city.
The mayor has said that although Costa began the work on his home in 2005 and substantially completed it in 2006, he paid Costa only last month, after taking out a loan to do so. Perez has acknowledged it was a mistake to hire a city contractor, and not to take out the necessary permits.
State investigators have been asking questions and collecting documents at city hall since at least late April, when questions surfaced about two parking lot deals involving Giles, a former state representative who is a political ally of the mayor.
Giles is also a longtime mover for the city. Since 2002, Giles' business, G&G Enterprises, has earned nearly $300,000 in city money moving the left-behind property of evicted tenants to a public works department facility. By state law, the city must protect that property for 15 days.
Giles' contract for that work lapsed in 2004, leaving him to operate without a valid contract until this year, when questions from The Courant prompted city officials to expedite the competitive bid process for the work.
On May 21 - months after the city sent Dainty Rubbish to haul away debris from Giles' warehouse - the city went out to bid on a contract to move and store the property of evicted city tenants. Giles won that contract, which also included a new provision giving the city the option to use his newly cleared-out building at 726 Windsor St. for storage.
It was unclear Monday whether the city has yet exercised that option.
Monday, Giles said he could not remember much about the city's involvement in the cleaning of his warehouse. Pressed further, Giles said he had never asked that the city do the job.
Asked why the city would clean his private property, Giles again said his memory was not clear. But he said he suspected that the city wanted to have the option of using the space as storage for the property of evicted tenants.
"I think that is where it was heading, but it never got to that," Giles said. "It may still come to that. It is open. They still may get to it. It is still an option."
But Marcellino, the city staff member who helped arrange the Dumpster for Giles, said his actions had nothing to do with any future city plans for the warehouse. Marcellino said he didn't know that Giles was later going to bid on a contract that would have paid him to use the facility.
"I wasn't made privy to the whole piece of that," he said. "Maybe I just knew my piece."
He also blamed himself for the situation.
"There's no connection there between the mayor," he said. "It was strictly a referral. Any misunderstandings, any bad judgments, any mistakes fall on me completely on this one."
Marcellino, a deputy director in the public works department, said Giles initially asked whether he could put the warehouse's waste out on the sidewalk for the city to take away. But after visiting the warehouse, Marcellino decided Giles needed a Dumpster.
Giles said he needed one immediately.
Marcellino then called Dainty Rubbish to see whether he could expedite things. A Dumpster was on site shortly thereafter.
"At that point, we were out of it," Marcellino said. "My assumption was that at that point, [Giles was] going to say, `Great. Put the Dumpster over here. How much is that going to cost?' But I guess none of that happened."
A week or so later, Giles called Marcellino to tell him the Dumpster was full and needed moving.
"I said, `We're through with it,'" Marcellino said. "You go ahead and handle it.'"
Marcellino said Giles responded: "OK, thanks for your help."
But a few weeks later, Marcellino said, he drove by the site and saw the Dumpster still there. Curious, he called Dainty Rubbish to ask who was going to be billed.
"That's when they said, `Public Works,'" Marcellino said.
Marcellino said he demanded that they stop the service and remove the Dumpster.
But he also said he told Dainty to send the bill to the city. Marcellino said he thought that because he had made the initial call, the city might be legally obliged to pay. He said any misunderstanding with Giles could be worked out later.
Three weeks later, however, Marcellino still hadn't gotten a bill, so he called Dainty back.
"They said, `Well, the next day after you called to shut off the Dumpster, somebody from Windsor Street called and said, `Oh, there must have been a misunderstanding. Please send it back,'" Marcellino said.
"The way I looked at it, [Giles] had his opportunity to explain to the company that [the bill] was his. And yet he chose not to do that," Marcellino said. "And he just kept dumping and dumping and dumping more stuff."
Nevertheless, on April 12, the city paid the bills in full.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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