When former Lawrence Mayor Willie Lantigua first took the corner office at Lawrence City Hall he fired a number of department heads whom he believed had campaigned against him.
He wasn’t firing them for doing a bad job or committing a crime; it was all politics.
Lantigua did not want anyone in his administration “who was not 100% loyal” to him.
Each of the department heads fired by Lantigua (some had served the city for more than 30 years) appealed their firing to the city council.
One of those department heads was the Planning director.
Because the Lawrence city charter states that the city council must approve all hiring and firing of department heads, the city council held hearings on the firings and voted on each city worker’s fate.
At the time (2010), the city council voted only to reinstate one employee, the planning director.
Lawrence City Councilor Dan Rivera was actually the deciding vote to keep him. The other department heads could not muster enough votes to maintain their jobs.
The next day, however, when the planning director tried to return to his office, Mayor Lantigua – in violation of the city charter – had a police officer waiting for him at his office door to have him escorted off city property.
Lantigua said at the time that he didn’t care what the charter said. He was in charge of the police and he was going to use that power to stop the planning director from returning to his office.
Councilor Rivera was furious.
How can the mayor violate the charter and have a duly reinstated city department head thrown out of his job after the council legally voted to block that firing, Rivera asked.
He called it corrupt.
He called it an abuse of power.
Four years later when then-Councilor Dan Rivera ran for mayor against Lantigua, he promised not to engage in the corrupt political practices Lantigua became famous for. He promised to treat city workers with the respect they deserved, and to abide by the powers set forth in the city charter.
It was the main reason Rivera defeated Lantigua.
Well … That was then.
Last month, Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera decided to fire Assistant City Attorney Brian Corrigan.
No reason given, just “you’re fired, get out.”
Rivera did so despite the fact that city attorneys legally work for the city council, not the mayor. The city charter is very clear on that.
Not surprisingly, Attorney Corrigan appealed his firing to the city council, obtained the two-thirds majority of the council needed to be reinstated to his job, and said he planned to return to work the next day.
Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera, taking a page from the Lantigua playbook, notified Corrigan that if he was to return to his office in city hall he would be … that’s right … escorted off city property by Lawrence police.
Rumors swirled that Corrigan was fired because he dared to apply for the job of retiring City Attorney Charles Boddy, and that Rivera had a campaign supporter in mind to fill that slot.
Regardless of Rivera’s reasons for firing Attorney Corrigan, he has on multiple occasions shown that he is no better than former Mayor Willie Lantigua when it comes to being heavy handed and ruining the lives of city workers for refusing to be his little puppet.
Or as Lantigua would put it, for not being 100% loyal to him.
We find it disappointing that the man who ran and won for mayor of Lawrence – promising not to engage in the corrupt political practices of Willie Lantigua – has done exactly that.
For all of his faults, we have always believed that Mayor Dan Rivera was – at the very least – a man of his word.
Now we know for sure that he isn’t. ◊