North End political boss Abraham L. Giles doesn't make money from the city just by running parking lots.
In a deal that political critics say straddles the line between cronyism and dysfunctional government, Giles has raked in nearly $300,000 since 2002 moving the left-behind junk of evicted tenants from the curb to the public works department yard, city records show. By state law, the city must protect the property for 15 days.
More than half of the money -- $173,000 between 2004 and 2007 -- was awarded to Giles' company, G&G Enterprises Inc., without a valid contract or a competitive bidding process, city officials said. Those payments appear to violate the city charter, which requires ``competitive bids for purchases in excess of $25,000.''
And the $300,000 is just since Mayor Eddie A. Perez took office.
Giles got his first contract to be the city's mover in 1988. Since then, he has slalomed through one political administration to the next, consistently in the mix for the city's moving and parking business.
Giles also has collected more than $100,000 since 2003 to help evict delinquent tenants from one of the city's biggest landlords, the Hartford Housing Authority, according to the authority's records.
With Perez facing the toughest competition for re-election since he first won his office six years ago, Giles has played an increasingly prominent role in the mayor's political fortunes. The former state representative is said to control key votes in a predominantly black voting district long considered by political insiders to be one of Perez's weakest.
Giles' moving deal is one of the longest-standing examples of how the politically connected make money through city hall.
Two other controversial deals revealed by The Courant also center on Giles and his relationship with the Perez administration -- one a no-bid arrangement to operate a city-owned parking lot; the other a failed private real estate deal that would have paid Giles $100,000 to walk away from a second city-owned parking lot he operates.
The chief state's attorney's office is investigating those deals.
Giles' moving business won its last valid contract to provide city hall with trucks and workers in 2002, shortly after Perez took office. And though that deal expired on Dec. 31, 2003, Giles continued to provide the city with his services under the terms of the expired deal, city officials said.
Matt Hennessy, Perez's chief of staff, said he believed Giles had a valid contract to perform the work.
``I was always under the assumption that this guy had a contract,'' Hennessy said.
When The Courant asked about the arrangement with Giles, officials in the city's seriously understaffed procurement department discovered what they described as an oversight. They said the Giles' contract should have gone out to bid long ago. The city then moved swiftly to put the contract out to bid and asking for movers available for on-call work on short notice.
In the end, who was the only qualified bidder?
Abe Giles. Discussions about a new contract are under way.
One of Perez's opponents in the coming mayoral election, former Deputy Mayor I. Charles Mathews, says Perez long ago opened ``the candy shop'' for supporters like Giles, to sweeten them up in anticipation of Election Day.
But the fact that Giles' moving contract was allowed to lapse without being renewed for years seems more like an example of rampant inefficiency at city hall than political favoritism, Mathews said.
``It is a demonstration of how dysfunctional things are at city hall,'' Mathews said. ``Whether you're talking about taxes, or the budget or how we award contracts, the city is not focused on ways to save taxpayer money. Either they don't have enough staff people, or they have the wrong staff in the wrong jobs with the wrong skills, and nothing is being done in the right manner. It is just a mess.''
Giles said Friday that the power of economics, not politics, is what helps him keep the city's on-call moving contract.
``Anything I got, which is nothing, I had long before Eddie was even on the scene,'' Giles said. ``I'm just cheaper than everyone else. There are other companies capable of doing it, but almost nobody is capable of doing it cheaper than I can.''
Giles charges the city the same rate he has for years -- $75 an hour, with a three-hour minimum and a $75 cancellation fee. That includes a truck, a driver and two movers. Then the items are moved to the public works department yard at 40 Jennings Road.
To keep costs low, Giles said he hires the local unemployed, some of whom may have pasts that keep them from securing other work.
But Giles' government-oriented entrepreneurship does not end there.
In addition to providing the city with moving services, Giles, a state marshal, has woven himself into the complex eviction process, which can often linger in court for months.
When a person is to be evicted, three main events take place. First, the landlord pays a state marshal to serve eviction papers. Then, the landlord pays for the tenant's property to be moved from the home to the curb. Finally, the city then pays to move the possessions from the curb to the city yard.
Giles, acting first as state marshal, then as mover, then as city contractor, is in position to profit each step of the way.