By: Tom Duggan 12/17/14
With only 11 months under his belt as Lawrence’s new mayor the Lawrence City Council is considering a vote of “No Confidence” against Mayor Dan Rivera for not staying at a council the city meeting Tuesday night to answer their questions about a recent spate of firings of Lantigua cronies.
The council is upset that Rivera has removed several of former Mayor Lantigua’s hires including his wife Lorenza Ortega, former comptroller Daid Camasso, former election coordinator Rafael Tejeda and Arthur McCabe.
Rivera spoke to the council on Tuesday night reading a prepared statement saying he would not answer their questions on personnel matters and asked them to stop publicly discussing the personnel moves for fear of lawsuits.
“Some of you don’t like the decisions I have made around personnel,” Rivera told the council about the 14 requests for information the council had sent to him.
“Since they are primarily personnel matters I will not be addressing or taking questions about them in this forum nor should any mayor, nor should you.
First it would violate personnel policy to talk about specific individuals this way, and it would definitely open the City up to law suits of which you are trying to avoid. The other reason you should not discuss them here is because hiring and firing with exception of department heads and boards and commissions are not under your purview. Not in personnel matters not in collective bargaining.”
Councilor Nilka Alvarez Rodriguez complained that Rivera called the council “a kangaroo court” in a recent news article. Apparently not understanding the phrase, Alvarez went on about how she was insulted saying, “I don’t look like a Kangaroo, I don’t have pockets” she said.
Council President Maldonado, another holdover ally of Willie Lantigua, said he too supported the vote of No Confidence in the mayor joining councilors Sandy Almonte and Onaida Acquino, also Lantigua allies.
Councilors Mark LaPlante and Eileen Bernal said they objected to the vote of no confidence as it wasn’t on the agenda to be discussed.
“So you are going to take a vote of no confidence in the mayor for not following the policies and by taking this vote we are violating our own policies?” Councilor Bernal asked indicating she would vote against the measure.
Before the vote could be called however, Councilor LaPlante made what is called a “charter objection” which is a provision in the Lawrence City Charter that mandates all debate and any votes on the matter must be delayed until the next regular meeting.
A vote of no confidence has no legal ramifications.
ATTACKS ON POLICE – A CITY COUNCIL IN CHAOS
During a discussion about a $2.5M loan order for capital improvements (that included license plate scanners for the Police Department) the city council stumbled and couldn’t figure out if the 5-3 vote in favor of the loan had passed.
District “A” City Councilor Sandy Almonte began her discussion on the loan order with a full blown attack on the Lawrence Police, saying that they treat people badly and that she opposed the license plate scanners because Lawrence cops were “too lazy to push a few buttons”.
Councilor Almonte has had her own personal problems with the police, including multiple motor vehicle violations, which she did not disclose during her diatribe against the cops and her vote against the police department adding the new technology to catch stolen cars and unregistered drivers in the city.
From there the meeting degenerated, as the city council president lost control and ignored city council procedures, first announcing that the measure passed, but then had to scramble when the vote in favor of the measure was called into question.
Embattled Lawrence City Clerk Bill Maloney informed Council President Maldonado that they needed a 2/3 vote of the council (6 votes) to approve a loan order and that the 5-3 vote (with one councilor absent) means the loan order failed.
Councilors questioned Maloney’s opinion on the law leaving him to flip through stacks of papers for what seemed like forever as the public looked on and city councilors shrugging in their seats having no clue what their own rules were.
After a brief recess, President Maldonado came back and announced that the loan order failed for lack of a 2/3 majority vote, but then four times brought the measure back for a vote which failed each time.
Near the end of the meeting Maldonado announced that the council does not need a 2/3 vote and that the measure had passed, but was sending a letter to the city attorney for a legal opinion.
LAPLANTE DEFENDS THE MAYOR
“On the loan order, the council is delaying the tools we need for our police and fire department. Everyone complains about public safety and then when we get the opportunity to give them the tools they need, the council stands in the way. We are following good municipal finance by requesting these loan items, which came from budget director and they ignored his recommendation. What can I say?”
LaPlante also said that the Mayor is communicating with the councilors individually but just not at city council meetings because of possible litigation from terminated employees, which LaPlante said would violate the letter they received from the city attorney before the meeting.
“City Attorney Charles Boddy provided the city council last night with a list of do’s and don’ts, on what we can say and not say and what is proper and improper to discuss in public regarding personnel matters. In the 14 points the council wanted to question the mayor on, were questions that should be answered, absolutely. I agree with that. But, how we got to the point where we were sending a litigious letter to the mayor with threatening overtones is not the way to do things.”
LaPlante said he believes the mayor is communicating with the councilors who bother to “Pick up the phone and call him.”
“I thought we were working as a team, when I call Mayor Rivera he calls me back. I can tell you flat out this guy has responded, he answers questions and communicates with us. Now, they may not like the answer they get but if they want to communicate with teh mayor they should do it. We need to get past this ‘he’s not talking to us,’ thing because the fact is, he is. “
The City Council will take up the vote of no confidence at its’ January 6th Meeting.