School & District Management

Updated: Hartford Mayor Convicted of Corruption Charges

By Dakarai I. Aarons — June 18, 2010 2 min read
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[UPDATE (4:56 p.m.): Hartford, Conn., Mayor Eddie A. Perez announced this afternoon that he would “relinquish” his duties following his conviction on five corruption charges.

“I intend to appeal today’s verdict. I believe that under further review by the courts, today’s decision will be overturned,” Perez’s statement reads in part. “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. I will formally notify the City Council shortly of my decision to relinquish my duties.”

Whether that means that Perez, a Democrat, will resign outright or step aside while his appeal goes through the courts is still being determined, said city spokeswoman Sarah Barr in an e-mail reply this afternoon.

The original post follows.]

Hartford, Conn., Mayor Eddie A. Perez was convicted this morning of five of six corruption charges by a Connecticut jury, The Associated Press is reporting.

Perez, mayor since 2001, has had some control over the city’s schools since 2003 and serves as a member of its school board. The corruption charges do not relate to the school district, but the mayor’s legal troubles bring focus on a key criticism some have of the governance structure: It places great responsibility—too much, some argue—in the hands of one person.

According to AP, the trial resulted from allegations that Perez accepted $40,000 in home improvements from a city contractor and tried to extort $100,000 for a political ally from a developer who wanted to buy city-owned property. Perez gave up chairmanship of the school board in early 2009 after he was charged in this case.

No word yet on what this means for Perez’s tenure as mayor, whether he plans to appeal the verdict, or if he will remain on the Hartford School board. As mayor, he not only sits on the city’s school board, but has had the power since 2005 to appoint five of its nine members.

“Mayor Perez, his family and his attorneys will make statements as they digest the verdict and explore their options. We need to be considerate of this time,” said mayoral spokeswoman Sarah Barr in a statement released to the media shortly after his conviction was announced. An announcement is expected this afternoon. We’ll update you if something big happens.

Perez and other board members were featured for happier reasons in a story on reform governance I wrote for our Leading for Learning report last fall. Perez was praised by fellow board members and district administrators for his leadership in helping to transform a messy governing situation into a stable school district.

How Perez’s conviction will ultimately affect mayoral control of schools in Hartford is unknown. While many mayors are looking to take a larger role in schools, others question whether such governance structures have inherent flaws because they depend too much on who the mayor is—and may now point to Hartford as an example.

Bob Duffy, the mayor of Rochester, N.Y., is seeking control of that city’s schools even as he runs for lieutenant governor of the state, and has said the issue is not him, but better governance that leads to better results for kids.

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing wants control

of that city’s school district, but many Motor City residents are wary, recalling an earlier effort that left the school district with a $200 million deficit.
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A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.