A Sanctuary City – Where is the LAW in Lawrence?

By: Kathy Runge – Oct. 2016

It’s been a year since Lawrence became a sanctuary city. Have you ever wondered how it’s working out? The answer is that we don’t know.

The ordinance states starting on September 1, 2015 and on every other month thereafter, the Lawrence Police Chief shall submit a report to the City Clerk and the Mayor containing the total amount of U. S Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) holds and other requests the police have received, the total number of individuals held as a result of the aforementioned, the total number of individuals transferred to ICE custody, and the amount of federal reimbursements related to the above.

The ordinance continues “The City Clerk shall docket said report, and include the docket on the agenda of the next occurring meeting of the Lawrence City Council.” This report has never appeared on any agenda. Where are they? Do these reports even exist

I could understand councilors not knowing about the reporting requirements of some ordinance passed ten years ago, but this reporting was supposed to start immediately upon passage of the bill. Did they forget?

It’s shameful that the very councilors who passed this bill either let the reporting requirements slide or don’t place the report on their agenda.
Mayor Rivera loves local Republican politicians. He accepts endorsements from them and likes photo ops with Governor Charlie Baker. However the mayor isn’t so in love with putting Republicans on the Board of Registrars (BOR).

For the past 6 years, until this past spring, the four member board had only three members, two Democrats and one Republican. The last time it had four members there were two Democrats and two Republicans on the board. Ron Martin and Lynne Garcia were the Republicans. Lynne Garcia left the board at some point around 2009 and the board had only three members since then.
I had been pushing for the board to be filled since the election of Mayor Rivera, telling him the seat was Republican. This spring an unenrolled voter, well known community activist Wayne Hayes, was appointed to the board.
I can find no reference to the composition of the BOR in the City Charter or Municipal Code. The Registrar and BOR are mentioned a few times as having certain duties, but nothing regarding its creation or appointing the members.
Section 8.5 of the City Charter says that state laws apply for any issues regarding the registration of voters and elections not expressly provided for in the charter.

According to Massachusetts General Law, c. 51 sec. 18, “the appointing authority shall so appoint their successors that as nearly as possible the members of the board shall represent the two leading political parties, as defined in section one of chapter fifty; provided, that a city or town clerk need not be enrolled in a political party.”

This seems to say that all members of the BOR, with the exception of the City Clerk, should be enrolled in a political party. A call to the State Elections Division revealed that you could theoretically have unenrolled voters on the board, say if you couldn’t find a willing Republican, but vacancies should be filled by a member of the same party as the departing member.

The fourth seat, the seat that Mr. Hayes filled, was last occupied by Lynne Garcia, a Republican. The Council minutes from her appointment on Sept. 5, 2006 state that “her appointment would meet the statutory party affiliation requirements.” The fourth seat should have been filled by a Republican. According to law, a certified letter should have been sent to the city’s Republican Committee and they can submit three names to choose from.
The Mayor made no effort to find a Republican for the board. I have no problem with Mr. Hayes except for his party affiliation. He is a great person, but a Republican should be in that seat. Mayor Rivera made it clear to me that he intends to keep an unenrolled voter there. Before you think he’s being generous to the unenrolled voters, it’s illegal to have three members of the same party on the Board of Registrars so another Democrat can’t be appointed.

Even if the City Attorney can find a way to wiggle out of the law, it’s clear what the law’s intent is. What would be so terrible about two Republicans on the board? Mayor Rivera seems to like them well enough when election time rolls around.

Republicans deserve full representation on the Board of Registrars.