Connecticut mayor dodges huge taco delivery

EAST HAVEN, Connecticut Thu Jan 26, 2012 7:47pm EST

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EAST HAVEN, Connecticut (Reuters) - Mayor Joseph Maturo Jr. got what he asked for.

Two days after Maturo sparked a national firestorm for his "I might have tacos" quip when several of his town's police officers were charged by federal authorities with harassing Latinos, immigration advocates sent 500 tacos to his office for lunch on Thursday.

Maturo, though, ducked out the backdoor shortly before the delivery arrived. The group, Reform Immigration America, left him a single symbolic taco and donated the rest to a soup kitchen.

In a statement issued later, Maturo said he would work on the challenges facing his town.

"The abundance of tacos that we received today underscores the importance of the issues currently facing the town of East Haven and highlights the need for the town to continue the process of healing and reform that I initiated immediately upon taking office," Maturo said.

An FBI investigation triggered by complaints from the Latino community resulted in the arrests on Tuesday of four East Haven police officers on charges of racial profiling, excessive force and conspiracy against Latinos.

When a reporter asked Maturo how he might repair relations with Latinos, he replied, "I might have tacos when I go home."

One of the four men charged, Officer Jason Zullo, was released on bail of $250,000 on Thursday. He was banned from returning to East Haven and ordered confined to his home, justice officials said.

The other three defendants had been released earlier on bail ranging from $100,000 to $300,000, with varying terms, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Connecticut said.

Zullo along with officers Dennis Spaulding and David Cari and Sergeant John Miller were indicted on suspicion of routinely injuring, threatening and intimidating Latinos with false arrests, false reports and harassment.

Known as "Miller's boys," they are accused of extending their conduct to anyone who complained about their behavior, including fellow police officers and members of the East Haven Police Commission.

The police scandal and Maturo's reaction to it prompted calls for his resignation, including at least one Facebook group with more than 800 fans called "East Haven Taxpayers Calling for Mayor Maturo To Resign."

Maturo became mayor in 1997 but was temporarily voted out of office in 2007, losing to Democratic challenger April Capone by 25 votes. Maturo, a former firefighter and military veteran, took back the mayor's office in 2011, defeating Capone by a slim margin.

Angered immigration advocates used social media to urge supporters to text TACO to a special number and promised a single taco would be delivered to the mayor for each text. More than 3,500 texts were received overnight but the group ultimately decided to deliver just 500 tacos to the mayor at lunchtime, Reform Immigration for America said.

(Additional reporting by Lauren Keiper, Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Dan Burns)

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