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A Review of Mayor Willie Lantigua’s First Year in Office

Corruption, Law Breaking,

And No Solutions for Troubled City

PAYING ATTENTION WITH TOM DUGGAN

 

By: TOM DUGGAN, FEBRUARY 8, 2011

William Lantigua

William Lantigua

Well, the Willie Lantigua administration celebrated it’s one year anniversary last month and a quick review of his first year in office has proven to be one of the most disastrous years for the City of Lawrence.

Lantigua came into office last year claiming that the previous administration under Michael Sullivan left him with a $9.5 Million … no wait it was a $17.5 Million … not wait it was a $24.5 Million deficit!

A deficit created by former Council President Patrick Blanchette who refused to set the tax rate or send out the tax bills for over a year, creating a financial crisis he and Lantigua blame on former Mayor Michael Sullivan. 

 And when he was done inflating the debt that he claimed Sullivan left him, he ran to his friend the governor to borrow $35 Million dollars (even with my math that still doesn’t add up).

 Within days of taking office Lantigua spent more than $10,000 on curtains and flooring for the mayors office. He also spent countless thousands on furniture and assigned himself a police officer to be his personal driver and another police officer to be his personal bodyguard.

 One of Lantigua’s first official acts as mayor was to fire Myles Burke the city’s Inspectional Services Director, Tommy Schiavone the city’s Economic Development Director and Michael Sweeney the city’s Planning Director.

 The firing of Sweeney and Burke needed a vote by the city council to be legal but while the council voted in favor of firing Burke, they voted NOT to fire Sweeney.

 That didn’t matter to “I do it my way” Lantigua who had a Lawrence Police Lieutenant waiting for Sweeney when he arrived for work the next morning to escort him off city property in violation of the law. He then illegally laid off Sweeney three days later after telling the council “ I will not work with those who cause a the problem.”

 For a time, Lantigua refused to give up his seat in the legislature pulling down two salaries totally more than $170,000 a year, plus benefits. He eventually did resign as a state rep. when the legislature said they wouldn’t approve the governor’s $35 Million borrowing measure unless he gave up his seat on Beacon Hill.

 Next, Lantigua illegally hired as his new planning director, former council President Patrick Blanchette. Blanchette replaced the laid off Mike Sweeney even thought state law says you cannot hire someone to fill a position while someone is laid of from that position. Blanchette was eventually made the Economic Development director even though he’s a tax cheat with a tax lien filed against him by the IRS for refusing to pay taxes three consecutive years while he was the City Council President. He was also caught stealing from his campaign account and fined by the State Office of Campaign Finances.

 In February, the Democrat dominated legislature voted for the Lantigua borrowing measure and almost immediately the new mayor gave raises to his pals in city hall including: Chief of Staff Lenny (De Da Dee) Degnan, Comptroller Dave Cumasso, Treasurer Patty Cook and a plethora of other pencil pushers in city hall.

 But what happened next was nothing short of disgraceful.

 Lantigua, even with $35 million in borrowed money, decided to lay off 25 police officers, dismantle the auto theft task force, nearly depleted the drug task force, laid off 24 firefighters, closed at least one fire station, and laid off a dozen or so DPW workers.

 He then elevated his friend, campaign manager and (then) Police Sergeant Melix Bonilla over the rank of Lieutenant and Captain to make him the Deputy Chief, demoting Deputy Mike Driscoll back to Captain.

 Within a few short months, Lantigua began to publicly attack members of the fire department, accusing them of purposely taking their time responding to fires in the city. He accused Fire Chief Murphy of “scaring the hell out of people” because he was speaking to the press about how being short staffed was affecting response time. At one point, Lantigua even accused the firefighters of setting fires and urged members of the public to follow firefighters with video cameras.

 

Willie Lantigua and Charlie Boddy

Willie Lantigua and Charlie Boddy

Mayor Lantigua ordered City Attorney Charlie Boddy not to comply with the Freedom of Information Act  and deny public records and public information to anyone asking until he could determine if they were on his “enemies list”.

 He rehired the fired law firm of DiAdamo and DiaDamo to handle the city’s worker’s compensation cases.

 Lantigua hired more than a million dollars in new city employees (no cops, firefighters or DPW workers though), dismantled the city’s Internet Technology department and the illegally tasked school employees to run the city’s internet and technology without reimbursing the schools.

 He eventually did fire Wilfredo Laboy, a man who was his confidant and whom he had supported for years prior to becoming mayor.

 He appointed Frank Bonet to be the city’s personnel director even though he sat on the school committee (Bonet resigned from the school committee last month). The new mayor also rehired School Committeeman Gregory Morris who was also a laid off DPW worker and was last on the list to be rehired. But he didn’t just bring Morris back as a laborer, he gave him an $85,000 supervisors job to ensure Morris would vote his way on the school committee, which Morris apparently had no problem with.

 Willie and his Chief of Staff Lenny Degnan wasted no time playing the race card accusing one of the least racist people we know, City

Lenny Degnan, Chief of Staff

Lenny Degnan, Chief of Staff

Councilor Marc LaPlante of being “a racist” for not approving Lantigua’s proposals to the city council. He targeted city workers who had either campaigned for Dave Abdoo (his rival in the 2009 mayors race) or were considered “enemies” of Blanchette or Degnan.

 He even pushed people off city boards to get rubber stamp votes.

 And that’s not the half of it.

 Yes, with just a year under his belt as mayor, Willie Lantigua has blamed everyone but himself for the condition of the city (remember he was a state rep. for at least six years) and created more turmoil in the City of Lawrence than every previous mayor combined… even Mary Claire Kennedy.

 He left the city unprotected from fires and crime and has given the city a black eye by having his shenanigans routinely chronicled by the Boston media.

 We know that Lantigua walked lock-step with former Mayor Mike Sullivan and had Sullivan fill city boards and positions with his “supporters” years before he announced he was running for mayor.

 Yet he continues to this day, to blame the Sullivan administration for all the ills of the city while white washing history of his involvement in everything from Wilfredo Laboy’s reign in the School Department to his puppet mastery of the city council for the previous four years.

 In the end, whomever history blames for Lawrence’s problems, Lantigua is now in his second year of a four-year term and whatever happens now (for better or worse), is unarguably owned by Mayor Lantigua.

 But blame is not all that important to the residents of Lawrence or the tax-payers of the commonwealth who are paying all of Lawrence’s bill. What’s most important is how Lantigua improves the city. So far, we have seen Lawrence go backwards by about 40 years.

And if this first year of Mayor Lantigua and Lenny Degnan are any indication of future performance, the next three years are going to be great for The Valley Patriot, complete with investigations, denials, indictments, and a ton of scandalous headlines of Lantigua’s shenanigans … but not so good for the poor people of Lawrence who are stuck with a dictator who thinks he owns the city and doesn’t have to follow the law. 

 (All photos (c) Copyright Valley Patriot, Inc. Photos by Tom Duggan)

 

Tom Duggan, Publisher The Valley Patriot

Tom Duggan

Tom Duggan is the president of Valley Patriot, Inc., a former Lawrence School Committeeman, a Police Survivor, the former political director for Mass Citiens Alliance and a talk show host on WHAV.net as well as a former radio host on WCCM, WCAP, WTTT, WROL and WEZE. You can email your comments to valleypatriot@aol.com .

Tom Duggan

Tom Duggan

Tom Duggan is president and publisher of The Valley Patriot Newspaper in North Andover Massachusetts, a former Lawrence School Committeeman, former political director for Mass. Citizens Alliance, a 1990 Police Survivor and hosts the Paying Attention! Radio Program on 980WCAP in Lowell, Massachusetts. You can email your comments to valleypatriot@aol.com.

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