City Council Subcommittee Divided on Lantigua Firings
Sweeney uses award-winning Valley
Patriot article to make his case
Tom Duggan – January, 2010
It was a contentious meeting before the Lawrence City Council’s Personnel Subcommittee Tuesday night, when three city department heads (fired by Willie Lantigua) got a chance to appeal their terminations.
The subcommittee first elected Roger Twomey as their chairman and then heard from fired Recreation Director Linda Schiavone who said she would be making her presentation to the full council on Wednesday the 20th.
Lawrence Planning Director Mike Sweeney made a lengthy presentation to the committee using an award winning article from the Valley Patriot from 2006. The story, “Red Cross Nightmare” was recognized by the New England Press Association. Sweeney used the story to highlight how he and Mayor Willie Lantigua had worked together side by side to help Lawrence residents who were being thrown out of a Red Cross shelter and find housing for them during the devastating flood that left hundreds of Lawrence residents homeless.
Sweeney also told the council that he shared Lantigua’s vision of helping Lawrence residents and had always enjoyed a professional relationship with Lantigua “before he got all the titles”.
Lawrence City Councilor Grisel Silva used her time to speak to attack Lawrence Mayor Mike Sullivan, saying he had “violated city ordinances” over the last eight years and bragged that it was she who “struggled” with the Sullivan administration to get them to follow the laws. Silva was so out of control that fellow councilor Marc LaPlante asked chairman Twomey several times for a point of order to put Silva back on track, but Silva continued to launch insults and discuss issues that were not on the agenda.
Silva shot back at LaPlante in usual Grisel Silva fashion attacking the fellow councilor for trying to keep her focused on the issue at hand. After the Silva outbursts, newly elected councilor Sandy Almonte asked for more professionalism and a halt to some of the animosity, though she did not mention Silva by name.
Several Lawrence residents spoke against the firings of the three department heads, including members of the Sacred Heart, Tower Hill, and South Lawrence East Neighborhood Associations. Not one person spoke in favor of the firings.
Since Lantigua did not have the votes on the subcommittee to send the matter up to the full council with a recommendation to fire all three department heads; Councilor Silva made a recommendation that each name be sent up to the full city council with “no recommendation”.
The city council will hear the matter on Wednesday, January 20th. Lantigua needs six affirmative votes on the city council to confirm the firings. Sources on the council say that, at least as of last night Lantigua has the support of the six councilors he endorsed in last November’s election. Councilor Silva was overheard asking councilors if she could personally make the motion next week to fire Planning Director Mike Sweeney, indicating she has already made up her mind on Sweeney’s fate.
Audio Clips and analysis of this meeting will be played and analyzed on the Paying Attention! Radio program at 10am on Saturday morning on WCAP 980AM. Listen live at www.980wcap.com