It was a night of dysfunction and shocking revelations Tuesday night as the Lawrence City Council was set to take a vote of “No Confidence” in Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera only one year into his four year term.
The council, mostly made up of holdovers from the Lantigua administration and loyal to the former mayor, are angry with Rivera for removing Lantigua appointees in City Hall.
Most members of the public who spoke at public participation mocked and chided the city council asking why they never took a vote of no confidence in former Mayor Lantigua during his 4 years of scandal and corruption.
Lawrence resident Brenda Rozzi stood at public participation and said the she had no confidence in the city council and called for a vote of no confidence in them by the audience.
“All I can say is thankfully, 21015 is an election year. With any luck those who think the mayor is not doing a great job, will not be sitting here next year because the voters will have their say. I think a vote of no confidence should be taken against some of you, and if I were to ask the audience how many give you a vote of no confidence, how many would stand up. Let’s find out, who is with me in a vote of no confidence against some of our councilors?”
At that point two thirds of the audience members stood.
Lawrence State Representative Marcos Devers addressed the council saying that such a vote would hurt Lawrence’s ability to raise funds from the state and federal government.
Members of the council still loyal to former Mayor Willie Lantigua, have been part of a concerted effort to sabotage the Rivera administration as he removes corrupt and incompetent city workers hired by or loyal to the former mayor.
And while a vote of no confidence is only a symbolic measure, one member of the public revealed that Lantigua has been involved in an effort to recall Mayor Rivera and a vote of no confidence would give him the ammunition to do just that.
State Representative Marcos Devers said that such a vote will hurt the city’s ability to bring in state and federal funds.
“We as a city have undergone a resurgence over past year it has been recognized throughout the state and beyond,” he told them.
“Many elected officials, and I mean leadership on state and federal level, have come to me to recognize the hard work that has been done in the City of Lawrence.”
“A vote of no confidence in Mayor Rivera would impede the steps we have made going in the right direction.”
“This sends a message to the state showing that we as a whole, are not capable to provide stability and find common ground.”
As Devers tried to wrap up his comments, Council President Modesto Maldonado banged the gavel to signify Devers was out of time and tried to interrupt as Devers got louder and continued to a cheering audience.
“Please, please, please, please …..withdraw this motion and or vote no!” he shouted over Maldonado’s objections.”
After spending nearly two hours in secret session to discuss unrelated litigation, the council came back into open session and took a vote to table, or suspend the issue for a second time since the proposal was brought up four weeks ago.
Members of the audience cat-called and booed, yelling that they had been waiting all night for a vote and public discussion.
“It’s an election year! We will remember!” Lawrence resident Rich Russell was heard yelling from the back room. The council will take the measure up again at it’s next regularly scheduled meeting on January 27th.
COUNCIL ADMITS IT VIOLATES OPEN MEETING LAW
Towards the end of the council meeting a discussion took place about the city council’s violation of the open meeting law, where President Maldonado and Councilor Nilka Alvarez Rodriguez admitted that the council had routinely violated the law.
Councilor Rodriguez pointed out that when sub committee meetings are held other city councilors have joined them making a quorum (or majority) and that those additional councilors routinely discuss the issues on their agenda in violation of state law.
“We have violated that a bunch of times,” Councilor Maldonado admitted.
Councilor Rodriguez agreed and said that they need to be mindful of the law and that other councilors who attend sub committee meetings should not be allowed to participate in the discussions unless they are explaining a proposal they submitted themselves.
The state’s public meeting law prohibits a majority of any public body from meeting , discussing or making public decisions, without that meeting being duly posted for the public.
Most members of the Lawrence City Council have been on the board for more than five years, these open meeting laws are not new to them.