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Judge yanks pension of former Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez

Judge yanks pension of former Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez
A Superior Court judge has revoked the pension of former Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez because of Perez’s corruption while in office. (Hartford Courant file photo) (Cloe Poisson | The Hartford Courant)

A Superior Court judge has revoked the pension of former Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez because of Perez’s corruption while in office.

Any hardship Perez suffers is outweighed by his betrayal of the trust voters placed in him during his multiple terms as the city’s chief executive, Hartford Superior Court Judge Cesar A. Noble found.

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The judge’s decision was handed down Tuesday. Perez, who works as a transportation coordinator for the Capitol Region Education Council, is believed to be contemplating another run for mayor. He has shown up at a variety of public events in recent months.

Noble’s ruling followed a one-day trial last fall when the state sought to prevent Perez from receiving a $27,945.12 annual pension for his time as mayor of Hartford. Perez sought to retain the pension, citing his inability to find work and his wife’s illness, but Noble rejected his plea, noting the severity of the former mayor’s breach of trust.

Perez’s “criminal conduct began in 2005, halfway through his tenure as mayor of the city," the judge wrote. “The severity of the crimes, the self dealing and disdain for the public good demonstrated by his conduct, as well as the high degree of public trust reposed in the defendant, outweigh any factors mitigating his crimes including any good work done for the city, the financial impact on the defendant and his wife or her illness.

“The injury inflicted by any misconduct is magnified when accompanied by a breach of trust and never more so than when done by an elected public official. In a representative democracy, the public’s vote is an act of trust and confidence that the public official will act in the public’s interest. Misconduct by an elected official results not only in distrust of the official but also a ‘loss of public confidence in the honesty and integrity of their elected officials.’ The defendant’s malfeasance while mayor thus places his action on the severe end of the continuum."

Perez resigned from city hall in June 2010, seven days after he was convicted by a jury of five felony corruption charges. The extortion and bribery charges arose from small, self-serving deals in which he was accused of taking $40,000 in kitchen and bathroom improvements from contractor Carlos Costa, who had a city contract to work on a Park Street improvement project, and Perez’s effort to have a businessman pay off former North End political power broker Abe Giles, whose support Perez sought, if the developer wanted his project to move forward.

But his conviction was overturned by the state Appellate Court in 2013, and the Connecticut Supreme Court upheld the reversal in 2016. The state then moved to retry Perez, and the former mayor pleaded guilty last August to taking a bribe and attempted first-degree larceny by extortion. He was spared prison.

In reaching his decision, the judge considered several different public corruption cases in which the state attorney general’s office went to court to reduce or revoke the pensions of corrupt municipal or state officials. The judge was required to take into consideration a variety of factors, including the severity of the crime, the monetary loss, the degree of public trust placed in the official by virtue of the person’s position and if the crime was a part of a fraudulent scheme.

“The nature of this crime ... is not properly measured only in dollars and cents but rather in the injurious implications for the honest administration of government,” Noble wrote.

The scheme, the judge found, resulted in “the obstruction of attempts to remedy what was perceived to be defective and untimely work by USA Contractors on a public project. In short, the defendant was prepared to, and in fact did, endanger a public project in a distressed neighborhood for his personal benefit. The court also considers relevant that fact that the defendant lied to state investigators when asked if he had paid USA Contractors.”

The judge found that in the payoff attempt to Giles, Perez sought to coerce a businessman who was trying to invest in Hartford.

“It should not be necessary to remark that such behavior not only insults public integrity, but harms the public good,” the judge wrote.

Recently, Perez, who is 61, dropped a lawsuit against the city and said people are encouraging to run for mayor.

“I’m being Eddie Perez,” he said. “When I’m at a barbershop or a bodega or at Walmart, people give me advice ... I’m happy they have me on their minds and think I can continue to do good work, but I’m just listening.”

David Owens can be reached at dowens@courant.com.

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