By: Tom Duggan – June, 2010
Lawrence School Committeeman Mark Gray says that Mayor Willie Latigua is violating state law by using Chapter 70 Education money (earmarked solely or school spending) to balance the city budget.
“He is using the school’s Internet Technology department to do work on computers in city hall and in the rest of the city and that is totally illegal,” Gray told the Valey Patriot.
Former Lawrence Mayor Mike Sullivan said that Chapter 70 Education dollars cannot be used for city services and added that he was surprised that Lantigua would be using school employees to perform services for the city after former superintendent Wilfredo Laboy was recently indicted for using school funds for non-school related services.
“There is one way the city can use school resources for city services,” Sullivan added. “If they get it approved by the school committee and are reimbursed by the city budget, there are a few exceptions that would allow the mayor to do that.”
“That’s not what is happening here,” Committeeman Mark Gray said of Lantigua’s ations. “Maria Cruz is a school department employee who is working in Lantigua’s office and they are not paying her out of the city budget, they are not reimbursing the schools for her salary and I plan on filing criminal coplaints against this administration for stealing school department funds from the children of the city of Lawrence.”
The Valley Patriot asked Acting Superintendent of Schools Mary Lou Bergeron about Maria Cruz working in city hall while being paid with Chaprter 70 Education dollars. In an email Bergeron admitted that initially Cruz was not being paid to work in Lantigua’s office out of the city budget, but that the city has since reimbursed the schools for her services.
“That’s just an outright lie,” Gray said.
“She was, and still is being paid out of the school department budget, that is a fact. There has been no reimbursement to the schools for her services. I don’t understand how this mayor is getting away with it. he thinks he is above the law and can do whatever he wants and the worst part is that he lies about it. Chapter 70 money is supposed to be used to educate the children of Lawrence, not balance Willie Lantigua’s budget or give a hack job to someone who campaigned for him.”
Sources in the School Department confirmed that Lantigua told employees in the schools Internet and Technology department to do work on city hall computers after workers in the city hall IT department. Those workers say they quit because Lantigua chief of staff Lenny Degnan ordered them to use city computers to spy on city employees and “do things we thought were highly illegal.”
“What makes this issue so explosive,” Committeeman Gray said, “is that Lantigua is giving orders in the schools and he is only one member of the school committee. He has no legal power to go to Mr. Long and order him to work on computers in city hall. On top of all that, they are not tracking any of the work they are doing for the city with school employees and resources so that it can be charged back to the city budget. Nobody is creating and keeping backup documentation for the hours school employees are putting in for non school related work they are doing.”
Gray says that he has been in contact with the Department of Education and the District Attorney’s office regarding the “illegal spending” and has placed the item on the school committee agenda to be discussed. “But I’m not holding my breath anything is going to be done given how this guy stifles free speech and sweeps everything under the rug.