By Ann-Marie Adams, Staff Writer
HARTFORD — About 40 people filed into City Hall last night and spoke out against plans to urge City Councilwoman Veronica Airey-Wilson’s resignation.
The group prompting this turn out was not present. And City Council Committee members had no letter before them to consider. But that didn’t stop Airey-Wilson’s supporters from voicing their concerns about a plan to eject her from office, with less than a year to finish her eighteen-year reign as the most visible West Indian politician in the state.
“We’re here to put [the group] on notice,” said one speaker. “We’re not going to stand by and watch this happen.”
Garfield Mills, a 27-year resident of Hartford, added: “She’s not a stranger in our community. She doesn’t just pop up during election. We want her to finish her term. We’re not going to accept her being railroaded.”
At least one person in city hall didn’t see it that way.
“I understand the Councilwoman got a get-out-of-jail card, but she should resign,” said Ken Krayeske.
Krayeske, who ran unsuccessfully to replace Congressman John Larson, was at city hall to speak in favor of an ordinance to curtail racial and religious profiling in the city. But he muscled his way before the group to interject that comment.
Members of Airey-Wilson’s supporting audience booed him. And he quickly exited the room.
The group planning this move is the African-American Alliance. When reached this morning, its president Clarke King said the group wanted to send a message to young people, especially to those like his nephew who just got out of jail and cannot get a job. He mentioned Ben Andrews, former 30-year president of the state NAACP and a part of State Treasurer Paul Silvester and then Gov. John Rowland’s inner circle. All were convicted of corruption in early 2000s and served time in federal prison.
He also mentioned former State Senator of Bridgeport Ernie Newton, Newton was released in February to a Halfway house in Waterbury after serving four years for accepting a $5,000 bribe, using campaign contributions for personal business and evading taxes.
Another person on the group’s radar, King said, was Alexander Aponte. Aponte was recently appointed to the city council after Mayor Pedro Segarra vacated his council seat.
But the group on Saturday only voted on whether to urge Airey Wilson to resign.
“Why should they be able to get a job,” King asked. “We’re sending out a message…Besides, I don’t think she is going to be effective during the rest of her term. How is she going to talk to people about what’s right.”
King said the letter aimed at Airey-Wilson and the court of common council is being drafted and the plan is to submit it soon.
Wilson is serving her 18th year on the city council and is in the middle of her three-month probation for corruption charges.
The Chief State Attorneys’ office arrested and charged Airey Wilson with fabricating evidence—writing a check out to the city contractor, Carlos Costa, to show payment — for work done on her kitchen pantry.
In September, she applied for special program that would allow her record to be expunged after three months. Hartford Superior Court Judge Julia Dewey approved her request.
A Republican, Airey-Wilson was a candidate in 2008 against Sen. Eric D. Coleman, a Democrat who has served in the Senate since 1995.
During that campaign season, Airey-Wilson’s house was searched as a part of the state’s corruption case against former Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez. A six-member jury found Perez guilty in June of five felony charges including taking bribes and attempted extortion. He was sentenced to three years in prison and is now appealing the verdict.
The same contractor who worked on Perez’s home also worked on Airey Wilson’s home. The cost of the job, Costa said on the witness stand, was about $500.