Here in Connecticut, over the last 10 years or so, we’ve had a sorry parade of public officials brought up on charges, with most of them convicted and run out of office. The current spate of corruption began in 1999 with the ouster of the corrupt state treasurer Paul Sylvester, and continued with two city mayors (Phil Giordano in Waterbury and Joe Ganim in Bridgeport), a governor (John Rowland), his chief of staff (Peter Ellef), two state senators (Ernest Newton and Lou DeLuca), along with a number of Rowland’s henchmen (Larry Alibozek et al). Have a look at some of these sad characters if you like.

The latest major scandal involves Hartford mayor Eddie Perez, who’s dealing with charges that he improperly got free work on his own home by a city contractor (most dictionaries define this as “graft” but Perez and his attorneys insist it’s normal). Perez has a sizable cadre of followers in Hartford who have advocated for him staunchly and who are keeping him in office (he’s slated for re-election later this year but there’s no doubt he will succeed). He, his attorneys, and supporters have held rallies in his defense — as if an appeal to the public somehow changes the veracity of the charges against him.

His latest deflection attempt was a prayer vigil arranged by him and stuffed by the ranks of his cadre, at the same time as a court appearance, and dutifully reported on by the Hartford Courant:

Mayor Eddie A. Perez stood outside Hartford Superior Court Tuesday morning surrounded by supporters gathered for a prayer vigil and told them: “God doesn’t give you a cross you can’t carry.”

Perez was due in court Tuesday morning for a second time as he faces criminal bribery charges, but the court date was changed at the last minute for to administrative reasons, according to his attorney, Hubert J. Santos.

Several local clergy members spoke to Perez and his supporters Tuesday. One spoke of “complete victory.” The Rev. Cornell Lewis, who organized the event, began it by saying that the weather was a good metaphor for Perez’s situation. “Cold, but the sun is shining,” he said. …

Santos filed a motion on Feb. 19 to dismiss the charges against Perez, arguing that testimony of various grand jury witnesses contradicts the evidence for the crimes with which Perez was charged. That motion is pending.

Santos said Perez will be back in court March 17.

I wonder what sort of theatrics Perez and his faithful minion Hubie Santos will arrange on that day!

This is such a transparent and pathetic maneuver that it hardly deserves mention; however, it’s common for politicians under fire to arrange these displays of religiosity. I can’t help but wonder why so many clergy — on this occasion and on so many others — are willing to involve themselves in these scandals and apparently eager to become spokesmen for these elected sociopaths. What gives? Yeah, I know the Rev Cornell Lewis never met a microphone or camera he didn’t like … he’s one of the worst attention-whores in the state … but to stand up for a crook? Why would he, or any other clergyman, cast his lot in with Perez?

P.S. The Courant has a very strange love-hate relationship with Perez; the paper has reported on all the mayor’s foibles over the years, but somehow it manages always to present him as a sympathetic character beset by troubles not of his own making; in the case of this story, the paper acted as his unpaid public-relations team! What makes this as strange as it seems is that in the case of other officials and groups, the Courant has pretty much gone after them with all guns blazing, unrepentantly and leaving no doubt as to the rephrensible nature of the folks they reported on. For instance, the paper (and its subsidiary the Hartford Advocate) has been relentless in its reporting about the Rev Stephen Foley affair (see e.g. this Advocate article) and how the archdiocese of Hartford has handled it. The Courant‘s presentation of the Perez investigation has been very different. I wonder why? Unfortunately there is no longer a reader advocate at the paper whom I can ask. Pity.

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