Perez Expected To Resign After Conviction

Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez was found guilty on five of six counts Friday. (Michael McAndrews)

Minutes after the city council issued a statement Friday saying that it would "take action" if Mayor Eddie A. Perez didn't decide whether to resign, Perez told council members that he would step down from his post.

"He has indicated to me that his intentions are to submit a letter of resignation to the council," council President Pedro Segarra said Friday after speaking with Perez by telephone. The letter could arrive as soon as Monday, council members said.

Perez's decision to relinquish his duties as mayor came just hours after his conviction on five felony charges, including bribery and extortion.

Once the mayor resigns, Segarra will assume the position for the remainder of Perez's term, which runs through fall 2011. Segarra said that he plans to meet with Perez next week to discuss the transition.

"It's been a very difficult two years. We want to turn back to what we've been trying to do, which is the city's business," Segarra said.

Perez was charged with receiving a bribe, fabricating evidence, accessory to the fabrication of evidence, conspiracy to fabricate evidence, conspiracy to commit first-degree larceny by extortion and criminal attempt to commit first-degree larceny by extortion. He was not convicted of a charge of fabricating evidence.

Perez has been under scrutiny since The Courant first reported in February 2007 about his agreement to let former state Rep. Abraham Giles manage a lucrative city-owned parking lot — awarded without the knowledge of the council or a formal bidding process. That story triggered the chief state's attorney's investigation into corruption at city hall that would eventually bring down the mayor.

The maximum sentence that Perez could receive is 55 years. His sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 10. Perez said Friday that he plans to appeal.

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said Friday that state law allows him to go to court to revoke the pension of municipal officials convicted of corruption.

"My office will seek revocation of Mayor Perez's pension upon final judgment," Blumenthal said.

In a statement released shortly after the council met to discuss its next steps, Perez said: "I have decided that it is not in the best interests of the city and my family for me to continue my duties as mayor during the appeal of my case."

"Today's verdict was a tremendous disappointment to me and my family," he said in the statement. "Anyone who has followed my 40-year career of public service knows that I have never placed personal financial gain before the needs of my community or my city. … I am truly sorry for any actions that may have harmed the image and reputation of our community."

Following the verdict, several city council members said they hoped that the mayor would "do the right thing" and resign.

"You wish it hadn't come to this. The city has clearly lost in this situation," Councilman Kenneth Kennedy said. "The city's reputation has been damaged."

Councilman Luis Cotto said, "It's a horrible day for the city, whether you're a detractor or a supporter [of Perez]. We have to find a way to move forward, and we're taking steps to do that."

Later in the day, the council released a formal statement signed by all nine members — including three of Perez's staunchest supporters — saying that it would "take action" early next week if Perez did not inform the panel of his plans.

Councilman Matthew Ritter said that Perez's decision to step down was "in the best interest of the city."

"I'm just happy it's over," he said. "It's been a very difficult day. Everyone's on high emotions right now."

Council Majority Leader rJo Winch, a Perez ally, expressed frustration at the results of the trial.