LAWRENCE – The recall effort against Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera by former Mayor William Lantigua supporters has declined into chaos with two separate (legally valid) recall petitions circulating throughout the city to remove the mayor from office.
Rivera’s attorney was in court Wednesday asking a judge to put a halt to the second recall, the judge will issue his ruling Thursday at 2pm, when Rivera’s attorney and Lawrence City Attorney Charles Boddy are scheduled to reappear.
THE RECALL EFFORTS
When former Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua lost his reelection bid to Rivera in 2013, he told The Valley Patriot that he planned on running against State Rep. Marcos Devers as revenge for supporting Rivera. He also said when that was over he would lead a recall effort to throw Rivera out of office and to reclaim his seat.
While recall supporters deny Lantigua’s involvement, those who are spearheading the recall efforts have a long record of supporting Lantigua, most worked on his last campaign or made donations to Lantigua’s campaign account.
They include Lawrence Police Officer William Green, Jennifer Lopez, Labor Union President Mike Gagliardi, Funeral Home Director Lious Farrah, federally indicted illegal alien Milagros Domingues (AKA Dirma Espada), Council President Modesto Maldonado, Brian Depena, Spanish language radio host Santiago Mattias, School Department employee Jose Alofonso Garcia and several other Lantigua supporters.
A COMPLICATED PROCESS
To hold a special election to recall a mayor in Lawrence, supporters of the recall must submit 100 affidavits (legal complaints) from Lawrence voters stating the reason they want a recall election against the mayor. If the signatures on the affidavits are certified as valid by the Election Department, blank recall petitions are issued to so that signatures can be collected. Supporters of the recall would need approximately 5,500 voters’ signatures within 30 days. If they succeed, a special recall election will take place where the voters can vote to remove Rivera or maintain him as mayor.
THE FIRST RECALL
When the first group of recall affidavits were filed with the city, Mayor Rivera challenged the validity of the signatures on the affidavits. He argued that the Lawrence Board of Registrars should have held a hearing on his objections, but instead City Clerk William Maloney released blank recall petitions to the recall supporters on orders of Rivera’s main rival on the city council, President Modesto Maldonado.
Under the Lawrence City Charter, the City Clerk and City Attorney work directly under for the Lawrence City Council.
Rivera asked a superior court judge to nullify those petitions as he did not have an opportunity to have a hearing on his objections. A judge ordered the Board of Registrars to give Rivera a fair hearing, which was held over several days.
At the conclusion of the hearing, the Board of Registrars determined there were indeed enough validly signed affidavits by Lawrence voters to issue blank recall petitions on Monday, November 2nd, the day before the city elections.
A SECOND RECALL CONFUSES THE PROCESS
While that process was taking place, a second group of anti-Rivera activists filed a separate group of voter affidavits with the Lawrence City Clerk to have a separate recall against Rivera.
Once again, City Clerk William Maloney released blank recall petitions before Rivera had the opportunity to challenge the signatures, leading Rivera’s attorney, Salim Tabit to argued in court on Wednesday that Rivera did not have the same opportunity to challenge the validity of signatures on the second set of recall affidavits. Atbit argued that a hearing should be held before those recall petitions can be deemed legally valid.
Tabit has yet to file a complaint in Lawrence Superior Court on the first decisions of the Board of Registrars on the first set of recall petitions.
Supporters of both recall petitions were out in force Tuesday at each polling location as Lawrence voters were selecting a new city council and school committee. Laborers Union Local 175 President Michael Gagliardi said that recall supporters trying to throw Rivera out of office collected more than 1,000 signatures on Election Day and have verified at least half in the last 24 hours.