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Chief Perez’s contract in Council’s hands

November 21, 2018

BRIDGEPORT — He has been sworn in as police chief, but Armando Perez has one final hurdle to face as he settles in to the $145,428 job.

The City Council has to approve Perez’s five-year contract. Members voted at their regular meeting Monday night to forward the four-page document to its contracts subcommittee for review.

That review gives Perez’s critics one final chance to voice their objections to his appointment. But one of the most vocal of those — Councilman Kyle Langan — said he is prepared to accept the choice of Perez as chief.

“It’s done,” said Langan of the search that resulted in Perez being appointed by Mayor Joe Ganim. “I raised my voice. The community raised our voice. ... But I don’t think it benefits me or the people I represent to continue to grind that ax. That battle is lost.”

Langan added, “I told the chief (following last week’s swearing-in ceremony) that while I have been critical of the process, I wish him success, because it means success for our community.”

Perez joined Bridgeport’s Finest in 1983 and got to know Ganim when he was the mayor’s driver in the 1990s. After Perez helped Ganim make a political comeback in 2015, the returned mayor promoted the then-police captain to acting chief.

Perez had publicly stated he wanted to be made permanent top cop with a contract. But in order to do that, under the charter, Ganim had to launch a search. That process began with 17 candidates and resulted in three names — Perez, Bridgeport Police Captain Roderick Porter and New Haven Assistant Chief Luiz Casanova — being forwarded to Ganim by a panel of law enforcement and human resources professionals.

Perez has admitted that the panel ranked the trio of finalists, and that he came in second and Casanova was the top recommendation.

Critics of the search believe it was always destined to end with Perez’s appointment, given his closeness to Ganim.

Langan and others wanted fresh leadership, in light of the many controversies under Perez’s watch, from the shooting death of a 15-year-old by a rookie cop to slow implementation of uniform cameras, to the retirement of a close aide to the chief who was accused of sending racist private messages over Facebook.

But Perez has also been praised as a caring, accessible leader with deep ties to the community.

Councilwoman Maria Zambrano Viggiano had, with Langan and others, tried to pressure the Ganim administration into hosting a public forum for Perez, Porter and Casanova to field residents’ questions. Instead, City Hall held an invitation-only meet-and-greet.

But Viggiano said she personally has been impressed with Perez and supports him.

“Whenever I’ve had a constituent come to me and say, ‘I’m having this issue,’ he’s been on top of it, met with me, just really been very responsive,” Viggiano said. “So I really appreciate that. I’ve only been on the council a year, but I don’t think I expected a police chief to be as responsive as he has been.”

There is nothing that seems immediately controversial about Perez’s contract. His salary remains the same and his health insurance and other benefits reflect those offered similar, non-union, politically appointed executive positions.

Like many other veteran municipal workers from the mayor on down, Perez will receive so-called annual longevity bonuses of $75 per year on the job.

Unlike many other employees, however, Perez does get a take-home car.

Councilman Ernie Newton said he plans to raise an objection over where Perez calls home. The chief, like his immediate predecessor, Joseph Gaudett, does not live in Bridgeport.

“I’ve been pushing this residency thing. People in top mayoral-appointed positions ought to live in the city,” Newton said, noting Hartford’s decades-old, though controversial, residency rule. “The high-paying people that work here should live here.”

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