Hartford mayor, convicted of corruption, says he'll submit resignation letter Friday

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Mayor Eddie Perez said Tuesday that he will submit his resignation Friday, a week after he was convicted on five corruption charges, and would stay in office long enough to ensure an easy transition.

Perez, a former gang leader who became Hartford's first Latino mayor, said last week he would step down after being convicted of extortion, accepting a bribe and other counts. He announced Tuesday that his resignation will take effect when he and City Council agree on a date "to allow for a smooth transition."

"It is time to move the city forward," Perez said in a statement. "I am truly sorry for the mistakes I have made that have harmed the city that I love."

Councilman Matthew D. Ritter said he expects Perez's resignation will take effect next week, allowing Council President Pedro Segarra to shut his law firm and get ready to take over as acting mayor. Segarra will serve until the next municipal election in November 2011.

If Perez tries to delay his resignation, the council can remove him, but that process takes at least one month, Ritter said. He does not believe it will be necessary.

"It's a very anxious moment for a lot of people," Ritter said.

Larry Deutsch, one of two Working Family Party members of the City Council, said he expects city officials to announce the date of Perez's resignation on Friday. He said it could be July 1.

Deutsch said Perez, a Democrat, should leave office as soon as possible.

"Now for the sake of the whole city, I'd like the transition to be efficient and rapid," he said.

Perez's sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 10. The mayor faces up to 60 years in prison, and he has pledged to appeal.

Perez was convicted of receiving a bribe, attempted first-degree larceny by extortion, accessory to evidence tampering and two conspiracy counts — all felonies.

The trial focused on allegations that Perez accepted home improvements from a city contractor in return for keeping him on a lucrative $2.4 million construction project, and tried to extort a developer into paying $100,000 to a political ally.

Perez was arrested in January 2009 on charges of receiving the bribe from a contractor and friend, Carlos Costa, by paying $20,000 for $40,000 worth of renovations, and only after he was questioned by a grand jury about the home improvements.

Costa told investigators he didn't expect to get paid for the work because that was the cost of doing business for the city, authorities said in court papers.

Perez repeatedly intervened in matters to help Costa, such as pressing city workers to pay Costa's bills faster than those of other contractors, authorities said.

Perez's attorney, Hubert Santos, had said that pushing the city to pay its bills is not a crime. He said Perez always planned to pay for the home renovations.

Perez was arrested again in September, when state authorities charged him and a former state representative with trying to extort $100,000.

(This version CORRECTS that Deutsch is not minority leader.)