A developer says that he offered to pay political boss Abraham Giles $100,000 to vacate a downtown parking lot after being told by Hartford Mayor Eddie A. Perez that Giles needed to be taken care of to make a real estate deal happen.
The developer, Joseph Citino, was negotiating with Hartford officials to acquire a city-owned piece of land at Main and Trumbull streets. That piece, where Giles has operated a parking lot since 1993, is next to another parcel that Citino planned to buy. He was going to build condominiums on the combined site.
``He said very clearly: Make sure you satisfy Abe or there's no deal here,'' Citino said in an interview. ``Almost word for word, exactly that.''
Citino added: ``Did he ever come out, right out, and say, pay him $100,000? No. That's what I thought I had to do.''
Similar allegations are outlined by Citino in an e-mail that he sent to the mayor obtained by The Courant through a Freedom of Information Act request.
Perez, who has been criticized for a separate parking lot deal involving Giles, denied pressuring Citino.
Perez says he did tell Citino that he'd like it if the developer would meet with Giles and work toward a short-term contract to handle parking before construction on the site got underway, but never said anything about an exit fee.
``I'm very clear about what I did,'' Perez said Wednesday. ``I asked them to get together to talk about, could [Giles] stay parking cars -- parking cars -- while the construction was going to start. Just parking cars on the city lot. And I asked them to see if they could get together to talk about that. That's it.''
``There's no way he could have misunderstood that,'' Perez said. ``I never, never asked him to give Abe any consideration other than could he continue the arrangement that he had parking cars on the site.''
Perez has asked Chief State's Attorney Kevin Kane to look into the matter, saying in a April 23 letter he is concerned that ``one or more individuals may have intended to use city funds from the project to unjustly enrich one or more parties.''
The city had discussed giving Citino $80,000 to abate asbestos in a building on the site, but Perez's chief-of-staff, Matt Hennessy, declined to say what Perez was referring to in his letter. Citino declined to comment.
In response to Citino's claims about the city hall meeting, Giles dismissed the idea that the mayor was involved in securing a deal for him to leave the parking lot. Giles said that he has a lease with the city to operate the lot, but neither he nor the city can find a copy of it.
Giles acknowledged that he met with Citino once to ask that he be allowed to continue parking cars until demolition time, and that he be given a contract to maintain whatever building was erected on the site.
Giles said he then left negotiations up to his attorney, John Kardaras, who instead of a parking and building deal came back with a $100,000 offer for Giles to walk away.
``I would be a fool not to take it,'' Giles said. ``That's a hell of a lot of money. If that is what they offered, I certainly wasn't going to throw it away.''
The parking saga is unfolding against the charged backdrop of the upcoming mayoral election, in which Perez is facing a crowd of Democratic challengers.
The candidates are all vying for votes in the party's July convention, when the city's Democratic town committee endorses one candidate.
A central player in the fight for the endorsement is Giles, a former state representative who is said to control key votes on the committee and who wields influence in the city's North End.