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Parking Chief, Others Go To Court

Grand Jury Looking Into Allegations Of Corruption At City Hall

By JEFFREY B. COHEN And DANIEL E. GOREN, Courant Staff Writers

December 13, 2007

The city's parking chief, a local developer and Mayor Eddie A. Perez's former director of development services were among those to appear Wednesday at Superior Court in New Britain, where a state criminal grand jury is looking into allegations of political corruption in Hartford city hall.

James Kopencey, the head of the Hartford Parking Authority, confirmed he was there for the grand jury, as did John F. Palmieri the city's former head of development who now serves as head of the Boston Redevelopment Authority.

Palmieri was there with attorney John Droney, who said his client was there as a "fact witness" and not as a focus of the investigation.

Also in court Wednesday was Hartford developer Joseph Citino, who said earlier this year that Perez told him he needed to take care of political ally Abraham L. Giles who operated a parking lot on a city-owned parcel before the city would sell Citino the parcel. Citino has said that he agreed to pay Giles $100,000 to vacate the lot because Perez told him that he needed to "satisfy Abe or there's no deal here."

In the end, the project never materialized and Giles never got paid. Perez has denied that he orchestrated Giles' potential windfall.

Kopencey, Palmieri, and Citino declined further comment Wednesday.

It is not clear exactly what this grand jury is reviewing; its work is done in secret, with only a judge, a prosecutor, a state investigator and a court reporter in the room.

But state criminal investigators have been probing Perez's activities since at least February, when reports published in The Courant indicated that the mayor's office had instructed city officials to give a lucrative, no-bid deal to Giles to operate yet another city-owned parking lot downtown.

The investigation then touched Perez directly over the summer. The mayor admitted in August that criminal investigators executed a search warrant on his home because he had hired a city contractor to do $20,000 worth of renovation work to his bathroom and kitchen. Investigators then searched the office of that same contractor, Carlos Costa of U.S.A. Contractors.

State investigators have also looked into other issues relating to Giles and Perez, including a payment by the city of $10,000 to haul away trash from a North End warehouse Giles owned.

On Monday, more than a half-dozen people were escorted into the state's attorney's office by the investigator handling the case Monday. Among them were former Hartford Mayor Mike Peters; Dinesh Patel, who recently retired as the city's director of licenses and inspections; Shirley Surgeon, the Democratic registrar of voters; Lee Erdmann, the city's chief operating officer; Matt Hennessy, Perez's chief of staff; and two other men who could not be identified.

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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