A Hartford politico who last year got a no-bid contract to run a city-owned parking lot was poised to walk away with a $100,000 fee had another city-owned lot he manages been sold, according to documents on file with the city.
The city planned to sell the lot to a private developer who wanted to buy a blighted building next door, knock it down and build condominiums on the site. That deal included paying a $100,000 ``lease termination fee'' to parking lot operator and former state Rep. Abraham L. Giles.
But city officials Friday said they could not find a copy of a lease with Giles and, even if they could, it wouldn't have a $100,000 termination fee.
``It sounds ridiculous,'' said Mayor Eddie A. Perez, adding that the only thing the city might owe Giles is time -- 30 or 60 days' notice. ``I wouldn't expect the city would have to compensate him at all. There's no termination fee that I'm aware of.''
Deals for the lot and adjacent eyesore known as the ``Butt Ugly Building'' at Main and Trumbull streets collapsed this week. But the failed agreement between the building owner and would-be condo developer raises a question: Why did the building's sale -- to which the city is not a party -- include a $100,000 exit fee for an agreement between the city and Giles?
The building owner, Robert Danial, did not return a call for comment. Its prospective buyer, Joseph Citino, would not comment on the terms of the deal.
Reached by phone, Giles refused to discuss the agreement and used an expletive before hanging up on a reporter. He did not return subsequent calls.
The city has been trying for a while to figure out what to do with the highly visible eyesore at 1161 Main St. that confronts visitors entering the city from its highways.
A year ago, Citino, of Providian Builders, floated his idea to buy the Butt Ugly Building, flatten it and build condos in its place. But to make the deal work, Citino needed the city to sell him an adjacent strip of land.
That land is the 40-space parking lot at Main and Trumbull streets that Giles has operated under a 1993 agreement with the city for $500 a month, Giles has said. But neither he nor city attorneys could locate a copy of the parking lot lease between Giles and the city.
``It has got to be in somebody's office,'' Giles said earlier this year.
Another parking lot operated by Giles put him in the news earlier this year.
Perez last fall gave Giles a potentially lucrative no-bid deal to operate a nearby 225-space parking lot at 1214 Main St. Since then, Perez has been under political pressure to end that agreement.
On the proposed condo site, the council last fall agreed to sell Citino the lot next to the Butt Ugly Building for $55,600. When it became clear that Citino needed financial help to make the deal happen, the city discussed giving him the land for free and an additional $80,000 to abate asbestos in the building before he knocked it down, city officials said.
This week, the city said its deal with Citino had collapsed. Citino said Friday he is still interested in his plan -- because he thinks it would work and because he already has put down more than $200,000 on the roughly $1.15 million building purchase.
Meanwhile, the status of the city's parking lot lease with Giles remains unclear.
In 2002, the city corporation counsel's office sent a memo to Perez with an inventory of all the city's parking garages and lots, and the status of their lease and management agreements. Next to the listing of the lot Citino would later want to buy it reads ``need agreement.''
Asked about the lease in February, Carl Nasto, deputy corporation counsel, searched for two days and could not produce a copy of an agreement. He said the lease had been missing for a long time and its terms must have expired.
Perez said Friday he initially suggested to Citino that he keep Giles on for the short term before he demolished the building and began construction. But that's it.
``I've never seen the lease, so I don't know, but my assumption was that this was an agreement where, once we gave him due notice ... Abe would have to leave, and we would have control of the site,'' Perez said.
A termination fee, he said, ``would not be a standard city procedure.''
The city has had a copy of the agreement since December. But Matt Hennessy, the mayor's chief of staff, said city attorneys became aware of the $100,000 clause only this week, after a Courant story about the collapse of the entire deal.
``I think it's a negotiating tactic,'' Hennessy said, referring to the possible addition of Giles's $100,000 to the December agreement.
But the figure doesn't make sense, Hennessy said.
``It's so outrageous, I don't even know -- it's unbelievably outrageous,'' he said. ``But it's the way that some guys decide to do business.''
Reached Friday evening, Citino would not comment extensively on the terms of the agreement. ``I am equally surprised as to why Mr. Hennessy and the mayor are so surprised by the $100,000 agreement with Abe Giles,'' Citino said. ``With that, I have no further comment until it's appropriate.''Copyright © 2015, CT Now