Carlos Costa, the contractor at the center of Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez's corruption case, testified on Friday that the first discussion of payment for thousands of dollar of renovation on the mayor's home came in mid-2006, which was about a year after the mayor visited Costa’s shop.
"He said I should develop a bill for him," Costa said. "There were rumors that I did work at his house."
Costa took the witness stand on Friday morning in the trial and told jurors that the mayor and his wife arrived at Costa’s Hartford granite and marble showroom in March 2005 looking far an installed granite counter top for their kitchen.
It took Costa until February 2007 to present Perez a bill for the work. The total amount he billed was $20,217. Costa said the cost of the entire job was far higher, at $40,000.
"Mayor Perez seemed a little shocked with the total of the bill. I took it upon myself to reduce the bill as much as I could," Costa said.
It took Perez until July 11, 2007 to pay the bill, Costa said. That was just after investigators started asking questions about the renovations.
Costa told jurors he did not prepare a quote for the Mayor on the kitchen counter top and he did not recall if the mayor asked him for a quote.
Normally, Costa takes a 90 percent deposit on counter top projects. There was no deposit from the mayor.
Costa said he considered the work as "a cost of doing business" with the city, and that he did not expect to be paid for the work.
"He was a friend. He was the mayor," Costa said.
When asked if he had any expectation that the mayor would help him overcome the problems and reprimands he was facing from the city on the troubled Park Street project, Costa said, "Yes."
Costa said that he has not been given any promises about the disposition of the cases against him, but that he hopes his testimony will help his cause.
When asked if Costa informed them what the price would be or if he prepared a quote, which Costa said was the typical procedure, he said, "No."
Costa’s testimony began with his story of the troubled Park Street project, when Costa told jurors that delays on the project stemmed from restrictions placed on him by the city to keep merchants happy, allow parking along the street and to keep two lanes of traffic open.
Costa said doing work with heavy equipment in a small space was "extremely difficult."
Costa says he received reprimands from the Hartford Department of Public Works due to the delays, including a letter telling him he might be subject to daily fines for every day that the project was overdue.
Prosecutors asked if Costa sought help from anyone in the city to deal with the reprimands.
"Yes. Mayor Perez," Costa said.
Costa also said payments to him were sometimes delayed, and that he also went to the mayor to help resolve those problems.
"There was a time I request Mayor Perez to intervene on my behalf," Costa said.