Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez said Tuesday afternoon, "I never traded my office for public benefit," three hours after turning himself in to State Police on corruption charges. Perez said he intends to carry out his term in office.
Perez was charged with bribery and other charges related to home renovations done by a contractor who has performed millions of dollars of work for the city. "At no point have I used my position to benefit any individual or business," said Perez.
His attorney, Hubert Santos, called the state's a "pretty thin case".
Edward Lazu, an employee at Hartford City Hall, faces similar charges.
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- Eddie Perez: charged with one count each of bribe receiving, fabricating physical evidence and conspiracy to fabricate physical evidence.
- Edward Lazu: charged with one count of bribe receiving, three counts of forgery in the second degree and one count of criminal attempt to fabricate physical evidence.
- Carlos Costa, of West Hartford, who owns and operates USA Contractors, Inc.: charged with two counts of bribery, and one count each of fabricating physical evidence and conspiracy to fabricate physical evidence. He was arrested on Monday.
A state grand jury has been investigating possible corruption in city government for 15 months and it looked at $20,000 in kitchen and bathroom renovations at Perez's home done by city contractor Carlos Costa.
Perez was at police barracks for about half an hour Tuesday. He said he will not resign, and has scheduled a news conference for 1 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall.
Perez and Lazu were released on written promises to appear in Hartford Superior Court on Feb. 3. Costa was released on a written promise to appear in the same court on Feb. 6.
"There is no excuse for it," Perez said in a statement released Monday. "I apologize for putting my family and my city under this situation."
But the mayor added, "At the end of the day, a lapse in judgment is not a crime."
Costa's attorney, William Gerace, told the Courant that state police arrested Costa on Monday on the same charges Perez is facing. Gerace said the charges are also related to the renovations at Perez's home.
Costa, of West Hartford, who owns and operates USA Contractors, Inc., was charged with two counts of bribery, and one count each of fabricating physical evidence and conspiracy to fabricate physical evidence.
Work at Perez's home was completed in 2006. He said he paid Costa in July 2007.
State investigators began looking into Hartford government in early 2007, reviewing a $1 billion school construction project, deals with a city politician involving parking lots and other city business.
Authorities searched Perez's home in August 2007, and two months later the state put together an investigatory grand jury to looking into possible wrongdoing in Perez's administration. Although the investigation was revealed before the 2007 mayoral election in November, Perez easily won another term.
Santos said he and Perez want to avoid a long wait for a trial, which he said would affect Perez's ability to govern. Santos said he will request a speedy trial, hoping that Perez would appear before a jury within two to three months.
Perez is asking the public to be patient for a few months while he prepares his defense.
Perez, a Democrat who's been Mayor of Hartford since 2001, has said that he was wrong to hire Costa, and he repeated it again Monday.
"The perception in today's environment has the potential to undermine public confidence in government," Perez said. "That being said, I firmly believe that I did not commit a criminal act."
City Councilor Matt Ritter, also a Democrat, said he expects to the council to take "some immediate steps" in response to Perez's arrest.
"This is a very sad day for the city of Hartford," Ritter told the Courant.
The investigation is continuing and additional arrests are expected, according to a news release from the state Division of Criminal Justice.