The contractor who supervised about $20,000 worth of renovations at the home of Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez isn't properly registered with the state and could face criminal charges over the installation of a new bathroom and kitchen countertop at Perez's house.
"If you are doing home improvements, then you have to have a registration with our department. It is illegal for someone to do work on a home without one," state Department of Consumer Protection Commissioner Jerry Farrell Jr. said Tuesday.
Farrell confirmed that the department has opened an investigation into Carlos Costa and his company, USA Contractors Inc.
State prosecutors are looking into the work that Costa - a city contractor - did for Perez, but Farrell said that a search of the department's records indicates that neither Costa himself nor any of his companies, including USA Contractors Inc., has ever been registered with the state as a home contractor.
Perez, in a televised appearance on "Face the State" this weekend, said that he was initially intending to do some home renovation work himself. He asked Costa - a friend - for advice, and Costa suggested that he could do the work for Perez, the mayor said.
Doing contracting work without a proper registration is a Class C misdemeanor. Farrell said that it was too early in the investigation to say whether the state would refer the case for criminal charges. Calls to Costa and his attorney were not returned.
Farrell said that one of the issues is whether there was a signed contract between Perez and Costa to do the work. The mayor released a stack of documents last week with bills and work orders for the renovation, but there was no contract among those papers.
Perez's attorney, Hubert Santos, declined to comment Tuesday when asked whether the mayor ever had a valid contract with Costa.
"Normally, if there's no outstanding complaints against a contractor, we just try to get them registered. We go after those who have defrauded customers," Farrell said, adding that the department has never received any complaints about Costa.
There is an annual $200 fee to register as a home contractor with the Department of Consumer Protection. The money goes into the Home Improvement Guarantee Fund to assist homeowners who file complaints against contractors with the state.
Although Farrell said that the state's issues are with Costa - not the mayor - he did say that it's not smart business to hire unregistered contractors to do work on your home because your recourse is limited if something goes wrong.
"Anyone who has a complaint against a registered contractor can get up to $15,000 from the state fund. If you use an unregistered contractor, your only recourse is to go to civil court," Farrell said.
The relationship between Perez and Costa came under scrutiny last week as investigators from the chief state's attorney's office searched Perez's Bloomfield Avenue home and Costa's Airport Road office.
The investigators are looking into roughly $20,000 in kitchen and bathroom work that Costa's company began for the mayor in 2005 and mostly completed in 2006. Perez said that he received a final bill in late February and paid for the work last month.
No building, plumbing or electrical permits were taken out for the work on Perez's house.
Perez has admitted that it was a mistake to hire Costa - a family friend he knew was a city contractor - for his house work. The mayor also acknowledged that it was his mistake not to get building permits for the work.
While Costa was doing the work on the mayor's home, USA Contractors was fighting with the city about a $5.3 million contract to beautify Park Street by installing new sidewalks, lights and signs.
The streetscape project, which was awarded to Costa in 2003, was rife with delays, claims for extra money by Costa and counteraccusations from city officials that he wasn't getting the job done on time.
Frustrated department of public works officials went as far as to notify Costa's bond company that they were considering pulling his performance bond. Records show that an irate Costa went over the heads of public works officials to Charles Crocini - a mayoral aide in charge of capital projects.
Two days after Costa contacted him, Crocini wrote a letter to the bonding company informing it that the city was not considering pulling the performance bond. Crocini has said that he did that on his own and did not consult with the mayor.
Contact Dave Altimari at email@example.com.
Courant Staff Writer Jeffrey B. Cohen contributed to this story.
OTHER PEREZ NEWS
Bad Cop News
Hartford Connecticut Police Officer, Charged With Beating Mayor’s Nephew, Receives A Slap On The Wrist
HARTFORD, CONNECTICUT - The city police officer accused of beating Mayor Eddie A. Perez’s nephew has been granted a special form of probation that could result in the criminal charge being erased.
Officer Matthew Secore, 36, was granted entry into the accelerated rehabilitation program in Superior Court on Friday.
Under the terms of the agreement, Secore’s misdemeanor third-degree assault charge will be dismissed in one year if the officer isn’t charged with any new crimes.
A two-year veteran of the force, Secore has been on desk duty since he turned himself in on a warrant on May 8, police spokeswoman Nancy Mulroy said.
Defense lawyer Michael Georgetti said Secore is embarrassed and apologetic about the beating he gave Perez’s nephew, Ruben Perez, 21, of East Hartford, on May 5.
“He realized he lost his temper and, understanding that, immediately apologized to everybody: Mr. Perez, the Police Department, and the community,” Georgetti said.
Georgetti said the beating came right after Secore saw his brother Slade Secore in a local hospital after Slade had been badly beaten by at least six people - including, police say, Ruben Perez.
Police called Whitey’s Towing to remove Reuben Perez’s car from private property. Slade Secore was the tow-truck operator and told police he was removing the car when a group set him upon in a “brutal” attack in which he was stomped and kicked in the head.
Rueben Perez was arrested after the beating and was awaiting processing in the Police Department’s booking area when Matthew Secore - who was off-duty - assaulted him, police say.
Reuben Perez said he had a bruise on his face, a cut lip, and red marks on his neck, police say. He is also charged with third-degree assault and breach of peace for beating Slade Secore. He next appears in Superior Court on Aug. 27.
Matthew Secore’s plea deal brings mostly to an end his criminal case, but he now faces a disciplinary hearing at the department, Mulroy said.
Georgetti said his client is “ready and willing to take whatever reasonable discipline the department is prepared to hand down.”
Prior to the assault on Reuben Perez, Georgetti said Matthew Secore had never had any disciplinary problems or incidents:
“He has been regarded as something of a gentle giant,” Georgetti said, “and this was completely out of character. He just lost his temper after seeing his brother.”
Days after the dual assaults, Police Chief Darryl K. Roberts ordered an investigation into Matthew Secore’s actions and other officers on duty that night.
Mulroy said Friday that a police officer and a sergeant who was a supervisor in the department’s lock-up “were disciplined accordingly” after an internal affairs investigation.
However, she said, the investigation remains open pending Matthew Secore’s disciplinary hearing and the findings aren’t yet public. Mulroy declined to release the names of the sergeant and officer.