Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez said Tuesday afternoon, "I never traded my office for public benefit," three hours after turning himself in to Conn. 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," Perez said.
His attorney, Hubert Santos, called the state's case as "pretty thin."
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.
"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 dealings 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 look into possible wrongdoing in Perez's administration. Although the investigation was revealed before the 2007 mayoral election in November, Perez easily won another term.
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.
Edward Lazu, an employee at Hartford City Hall, faces similar charges.
The investigation is continuing and additional arrests are expected, according to a news release from the state Division of Criminal Justice.