Public Information Belongs to US!

Freedom of Information Laws MUST be Respected

Valley Patriot Editorial

February 5, 2011
Lawrence Mayor Willie Lantigua seems to think he owns the City of Lawrence.
Since taking office in January of 2010, the Boston Herald and The Valley Patriot have reported Lantigua refusing to comply with Freedom of Information (FOI) requests. Those are requests to turn over public information and documents to the “public” and must be fulfilled required by law.

City Attorney Charlie Boddy actually told the Boston Herald that Lantigua has ordered them not to turn over public documents or information until he could verify whether or not those making the request were on Lantigua’s “enemies list”.
Sound Familiar? It should. Republican President Richard Nixon once had an “enemies list” of people whom government employees were told not to cooperate with.

In addition, Lantigua has ordered city employees not to talk to the press about public information concerning Lawrence city government. He doesn’t want the Valley Patriot or other media outlets on his “enemies list” to find out what he an elected “PUBLIC” official is doing with all those millions in PUBLIC dollars he is spending, as if they belonged to him personally.

Lantigua also threatened city employees with retaliation if they pass along such public information or public documents to members of the public without his personal approval through his Chief of Staff Lenny Degnan.

You remember Degnan don’t you? He was acting mayor the last time Lawrence had a fiscal-oversight board, practically bankrupting the city in the few short weeks he was mayor. He also took one of the most popular mayors (Mary Claire Kennedy) and turned her into the most hated mayor in the history of the city.

Lantigua and Degnan both say that these new dictatorial policies are simply to make sure the “right” information is given to the pubic. But anyone who knows these two and have seen them in action over the years knows that it’s much more about hiding what they are doing with public dollars and preventing members of the press from exposing it.

For more than 200 years public employees were trusted to handle information in their own departments and give public information to the press as needed… that is… until now. 

We at The Valley Patriot want to remind Lawrence city workers that there IS a Whistle Blower Law in Massachusetts. Anyone who faces retaliation for passing along public information to the press is protected from retaliation and can sue the city under the Whistle Blower statute to get relief from any such retaliation.

It’s time that Degnan and Lantigua realize that holding a PUBLIC position means you work for the public. Information, documents and money being spent by temporary elected officials like Lantigua do not belong to him, they belong to us. And we have every right to know what he’s doing with OUR city.

Especially those who live outside Lawrence who are and have been paying their bills forever… with noting to show for it.