HARTFORD – The jury in Mayor Eddie A. Perez's corruption case got a primer on mayoral politics in 2006 and 2007 – and, as was fitting, the accounts were in dispute.
Testifying as a prosecution witness Wednesday, City Councilman Kenneth Kennedy, who acknowledged that he's considering a run for mayor in 2011, said the mayor's nomination was in doubt in 2007 and he needed North End power broker Abraham Giles to deliver votes in the 5th Assembly District. The ward committee was divided over which candidate to support.
The state says Perez exploited Giles' influence in the 5th district, steering lucrative no-bid parking lot deals and other business arrangements to Giles in exchange for his vow to deliver votes and assure Perez the endorsement of the Democratic Town Committee. The 5th district was torn between Perez and candidates Minnie Gonzalez, Frank Barrows and I. Charles Mathews.
But defense lawyer Hubert Santos suggested that Giles was a fading star who had in recent years backed losing slates and lost primaries for ward committee seats – and that Perez, a child of the North End, didn't need Giles to galvanize the 5th.
Kennedy testified that people have counted out Giles before, only to see him "rebound.''
Kennedy said he had a conversation with Perez after the 2003 election. He said the mayor told him Giles was finished politically in Hartford and that Kennedy needed to align himself with Perez or be "frozen out" of city government.
Still, as the 2007 election approached, Kennedy said it was "common knowledge" that the 1st and 3rd districts were not supporting Perez, vaulting the 5th district — the longtime power base of the Giles family — back into the spotlight.
Giles had not been known as a Perez supporter "but at some point in 2006, Mr. Giles went on the radio and said he was behind the mayor," Kennedy said.
In July 2007, at the Democratic Town Committee convention, Perez received the endorsement, with the crucial support from the 5th. Perez went on to win the primary and the general elections.
One of the corruption counts against Perez — larceny by extortion — involves a $100,000 fee that Giles allegedly was demanding from a developer, Joseph Citino, to vacate a parking lot that Citino needed for a commercial development.
The prosecution asserts that Perez wanted Giles taken care of, even though Giles' demand for payment from Citino was blocking plans to raze and redevelop a famously decrepit structure at 1161 Main St. widely known as the "Butt-Ugly Building.''
The state alleges other lucrative deals as well. For example, Giles had an arrangement to move the possessions of people who had been evicted. If a move was canceled, Giles was still paid, netting $90,000 over two years in cancellations alone.
Giles was leasing the parking lot at 1143 Main St. for a bargain-basement rate of $500 a month, and then subleasing the site to LAZ Parking for $2,250 a month, city records show.
Under questioning from Santos, Kennedy said he has wanted to run for mayor for several years. Kennedy said he's spoken to numerous people about running in 2011.
Kennedy also said he seeks Giles' advice and considers him a mentor.
Is it "fair to say that for the last 50 years that Abe Giles has made his living ... off of his connections with city hall?" Santos asked.
"He was a very well-connected man," Kennedy said.
Santos indicated that Giles has held parking lot deals in the city since the early 1990s, a decade before Perez was elected.
Kennedy acknowledged that he told the grand jury that was investigating city hall corruption that Giles made his living off politics.
But the prosecution contends that Perez and Giles developed a mutually beneficial relationship that enriched Giles.
Kennedy said Giles was "clearly the leader of the 5th District," though Santos noted that Giles had at one point lost a challenge from state Rep. Marie Kirkley-Bey.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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