BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) — The police chief of Connecticut’s largest city was arrested Thursday on federal charges that he teamed with Bridgeport’s personnel director to rig the hiring process to make sure he would get his job.
Federal prosecutors in New York and FBI officials in Connecticut announced the arrest of Bridgeport Police Chief Armando “A.J.” Perez along with David Dunn, the city’s acting personnel director.
Perez, 64, of Trumbull, Connecticut, and Dunn, 72, of Stratford, Connecticut, were each charged with wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and with making false statements to investigators. Both appeared via videoconference before a federal judge in Bridgeport and were allowed to remain free on $150,000 bail.
A criminal complaint alleged they defrauded the city of 144,000 people by rigging the 2018 police chief examination to put Perez in position to secure the post as head of a police department with an annual budget of over $100 million and more than 400 officers.
The previous police chief had resigned in March 2016.
Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss in New York City said the men corrupted what was supposed to be an impartial and objective search for a permanent police chief “and then repeatedly lied to federal agents in order to conceal their conduct.”
According to a criminal complaint in Connecticut, Dunn gave confidential examination questions in advance to Perez, had two police officers secretly write Perez’s written exam and tailored the examination scoring criteria to favor Perez.
Dunn also instructed officials there should be no requirement that the chief candidates have bachelor’s degrees, and Perez was the only applicant without one, authorities said.
It said the maneuvers were designed to ensure Perez, who has been with the police department nearly four decades, was ranked among the top three candidates and could thus qualify to be awarded a five-year contract as chief.
The terms of his contract included a $300,000 payout for accrued leave, the complaint said.
Perez and Dunn both were voluntarily interviewed during the FBI’s investigation, but they lied to agents to conceal what they did to corrupt the examination process, the complaint said.
A phone message seeking comment was left with Perez’s lawyer, Robert Frost Jr. Dunn’s lawyer, Frederick Paoletti, declined to comment.
Mayor Joe Ganim’s office released a statement saying city officials are reviewing the allegations and deciding whether to make any personnel changes in response. The statement did not directly respond to the accusations.
Several state representatives from Bridgeport also released a statement.
“These allegations are extremely troubling and, unfortunately, the latest in a string of incidents that have undermined public confidence in the leadership of our police department,” said state Reps. Andre Baker Jr., Antonio Felipe, Jack Hennessy, Christopher Rosario, Steve Stafstrom, and Charlie Stallworth.
Ganim, a close friend of Perez’s, served nearly seven years in prison himself after he was convicted of corruption for steering city contracts in exchange for private gifts during his first tenure of Bridgeport mayor, which ran from 1991 until his resignation in 2003.
He was released from prison in 2010 and elected mayor again in 2015, after apologizing and asking residents for a second chance.
Associated Press writer Larry Neumeister in New York contributed to this report.