Hartford mayor resigns, successor sworn in

The News Leader

June 25, 2010 5:22:43 PM PDT
Hartford City Council President Pedro Segarra was sworn in Friday as mayor of Connecticut's capital city hours after Eddie Perez formally resigned following his conviction in a political corruption case.

Segarra told residents and city council members at the swearing-in ceremony that the community was going through a difficult period. "But we need to join efforts as brothers and sisters to overcome the difficulties that we're having to move this city forward," he said.

He said that in a brief conversation with Perez, the former mayor expressed a desire to move on.

In a letter of resignation hours earlier, Perez, who maintains his innocence in the criminal case, said he considered it an honor to serve the city over his nine years in office and he apologized for his mistakes.

"I thank the voters for the confidence they placed in me," he wrote. "I am truly sorry for the mistakes I made that have harmed the reputation of the city I love. I hope to earn the forgiveness of its people, who have enriched my life in hundreds of ways."

Segarra said he has met with Perez's chief of staff and chief operating officer telling them to instruct their staff to submit letters of resignation for his review.

"I understand fully well that I am a mayor by default," he said. "But that doesn't mean that I have any opportunity to default on the citizens of this city on what my obligations are."

Calls for Perez's resignation came shortly after he was convicted last week of receiving a bribe, attempted first-degree larceny by extortion, accessory to evidence tampering and two conspiracy counts - all felonies.

Prosecutors said he received $40,000 in home improvements as a bribe from a city contractor in return for keeping him on a lucrative $2.4 million contract and tried to extort $100,000 from a developer for a political ally.

The jury delivered the verdict after a six-week trial. Perez announced soon after that he would step down.

A one-time gang leader who escaped an impoverished childhood to become Hartford's first Latino mayor, Perez denies the allegations and says he will appeal. His sentencing is set for Sept. 10.

Some city council members said they were looking forward to the challenges ahead.

"I think he (Segarra) struck the right tone," said Councilman Kenneth H. Kennedy. "Now is not the time to be celebrating. Now is the time for restoring the trust of our city and communities."

Council minority leader Luis Cotto said that with Perez out of office, it will allow Hartford "to turn the page".

"This is going to allow us to come back in the fall with a fresh new face," he said.

Perez's convictions were the latest in a series of corruption cases over the past decade involving Connecticut politicians, most notably Gov. John G. Rowland, who resigned in 2004 and served 10 months in federal prison after admitting he traded political access for vacations and repairs to his lakeside cottage.

Perez, a native of Puerto Rico, moved to Hartford at age 12.

He captured the mayor's seat with more than 70 percent of the vote in his first two elections. But he won with only 48 percent of the vote in a six-way race in 2007 after details about the investigation began to emerge.


Load Comments