Democratic council members Pedro Segarra, Kenneth Kennedy and Matthew Ritter called fora special meeting Thursday to discuss stripping Democratic council President Calixto Torres of his leadership role.
Perez's arrest drew mixed reactions in the city neighborhood that played a key role in the case. At the Bairrada Bakery & Pastry Shop on Park Street, owner Tony Couceiro and customer Vitor Lopes debated whether Perez was out of line to use city contractor Carlos Costa — who won a multimillion dollar contract to remake Park Street — to do work on his home.
Couceiro said the line between right and wrong is blurred when politicians get favors from friends.
"I could see myself getting into the same kind of mess," Couceiro said.
Lopes was less sympathetic.
"He didn't pay that money until it was investigated," he said of Perez. "That means something's wrong."
It was that appearance of wrongdoing that prompted the Democratic council members to seek a change in the leadership of the council to reflect what they say will be a more bipartisan vision going forward.
"The current leadership may not represent the new dynamic the council seeks," Ritter said. "[Torres] is close to the current administration."
Ritter said the council wants to reassure the public that it takes the charges against Perez seriously, regardless of the outcome of Thursday's meeting and possible vote on Torres' fate as council president.
"If we fail, at least we know where people stand," Ritter said. "This is part of what needs to be done."
The city council has been a body in flux recently. The panel that Perez once could count on to echo his wishes has changed, with new members elected in 2007 and a Democratic majority that has become increasingly splintered.
Segarra, Ritter and Kennedy all have shown a willingness lately to buck the council leadership. And Working Family Party members Luis Cotto and Minority Leader Larry Deutsch have further fragmented Perez's hold over the council.
The other board members are Republican Veronica Airey-Wilson and Democrats Jim Boucher and Majority Leader rJo Winch.
Six votes would be needed Thursday to remove Torres from the council presidency. An informal poll of several council members Tuesday made it clear, however, that his ouster isn't certain.
"I'm not going to vote on anything that changes the bus driver without changing the direction the bus is going in," said Cotto, who said he wanted to sit down with Torres and Segarra to discuss the issue.
"The way it is right now, there are no checks and balances, and we are equally at fault for letting it get like this," Cotto said.
Deutsch, who said he has joined with Segarra on many votes, appeared to be leaning toward removing Torres but stopped short of announcing his intention.