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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Joe Lieberman's favorite mayor faces more problems

Oh look, another problem for Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez.

Anyone surprised?
The chief state's attorney's office is investigating a potentially lucrative, no-bid parking contract that the administration of Hartford Mayor Eddie A. Perez awarded to a political operative, intensifying the ongoing turmoil over the deal.

According to documents and sources familiar with the inquiry, the investigator, Michael Sullivan, has requested that city officials turn over documents and e-mails relating to the deal the city gave to former state Sen. Abraham L. Giles to run the 225-space lot downtown.

The deal was signed in November and has been a political tempest for the mayor since its existence was disclosed by The Courant. Giles is considered by many a significant political powerbroker in Hartford with influence over key votes on the city's Democratic town committee.

[...]

Hartford gave the lucrative contract to Giles without a bidding process or informing the city council, despite the city's own parking authority expressing interest in the lot months earlier to officials in the mayor's office. The deal was finalized on Nov. 1, 2006.

Giles pays the city $1,000 a month in rent for the right to manage the 225-space lot at 1214 Main St., at the corner of Trumbull Street. Under the terms of the 18-month deal, Giles keeps all of the parking proceeds from the lot.

The lot is one of two owned by the city at the same intersection operated by Giles.

The other, smaller lot at 1143 Main St. has been managed by Giles since 1993. But it, too, has been the subject of recent interest, with the disclosure last week of a $100,000 "lease termination fee" for Giles in a purchase agreement for a developer to buy the blighted building next door.

The private deal fell apart, but it raised a still-unanswered question: Why did the building's sale from one developer to another include a $100,000 exit fee for an agreement between the city and Giles?

City officials said last week they could not explain it.

Since the more recent deal for the bigger, 225-space lot was first disclosed in February, Perez has backed away from it publicly. After getting approval from the city council, he asked the parking authority to prepare bids to manage the lot.
And you wonder why there are so many Democratic candidates throwing their hats in the mayor's race in Hartford.

Fox61 also filed this report on the matter.

There's one word can best define Mayor Perez: Arrogance.

I think Courant Columnist Stan Smith said it best:
The Perez-Giles pact circumvented both the city council and the parking authority. In exchange for a $1,000 monthly fee to the city, Giles manages the 225-space Main Street lot, which could generate a minimum profit of roughly $3,000 a month.

Though Giles' influence these days as a north Hartford political boss is waning, he is thought to have control of a bloc of 14 votes on the Democratic town committee. That bloc is critical in this year's caucus because several candidates are challenging Perez's re-election.

The Perez-Giles deal is telling for a number of reasons. It speaks to an arrogance of power that befalls some of the state's most well-intended elected officials. Perez's disdain for transparency in this transaction and his short memory of the chicanery that sent a host of Connecticut politicians to prison is mind-boggling.

Whoever was in the mayor's inner circle when this went down should be dismissed. Surely, someone should have had the courage and foresight to get a whiff of the Giles agreement and say "SeƱor Alcalde, you can't go there."

The deal was so smelly that Perez, after the deal was exposed, proposed an ordinance in February to enable the council to review similar deals. It would also give the parking authority the right to prepare bids to manage the Giles-supervised lot.

While some may view the Giles gift as political patronage - or even minority-business development - it reeks of influence peddling. And with the chief state's attorney now officially involved, this is going to get worse for Hartford before it gets better.
I think that's an understatement Stan.