Lawrence Mayor Elect, Dan Rivera on Audits, Investigations and Lawrence’s Future
By: Tom Duggan – Movember 9, 2013
Less than 24 hours after the Lawrence Board of Registrars finished tallying up absentee and provisional ballots in the mayor’s race showing Dan Rivera the winner by 57 votes, Rivera appeared on WCAP’s “Paying Attention” radio program saying he has already spoken with state receiver Robert Nunes and outgoing Mayor Willie Lantigua to implement a hiring freeze on all city jobs.
“I am hoping that the mayor will do a hiring freeze,” Rivera said. “I asked the Overseer [Bob Nunez] to implement a hiring freeze. And I am asking Willie to also do a hiring freeze between now and January 1st, so that there are no runs on positions that are open.”
River said he also wants an audit of personnel and that he wants an expansion of the upcoming audit on the city’s finances.
“I think that as a matter of course we have an audit coming anyway and we just want to expand it to be just a little bit more thorough so we have a benchmark. I don’t want people to say that ‘Oh, Dan is blaming Willie for stuff that he left, and it’s really Dan’s thing,’ or ‘Dan is taking credit for stuff that Willie really did.’”
Rivera said that he was going to be evaluating employees and contracts with a new standard not seen in the Lantigua administration.
“We are going to open up the books and let people see what’s going on. I’m not going to hide behind stuff … If there are contractual relationships that are based on personal relationships, people should just go right now, those things are gone. We’re going to do it based on what’s best for the city 100%. We are going to ‘lean on” making sure most of the money we spend with businesses in Lawrence.”
Rivera says that having an open book policy with city documents will stop the speculation between real conflicts and rumors of conflicts.
After the radio program Rivera announced his transition team would include Attorney, University of Massachusetts Board of Trustees member, and Lawrence resident Zoila Gomez and National Board Chair for Groundwork USA and Lawrence resident Maggie Super Church as co-chairs of his transition team.
HITTING THE GROUND RUNNING, GETTING INDICTED CITY EMPLOYEES OFF THE PAYROLL
The Lawrence City Councilor At-Large will take office in January and admits the task of turning Lawrence around is daunting, but promises he is hitting the ground running. He says that the very first thing he will do is stop paying indicted city employees and send a message that things are not going to be different.
Over the last four years of the Lantigua Administration several city employees have been indicted for corruption including the deputy police Chief Melix Bonilla. Lantigua continues to pay them while they await trial.
“Listen, I was in the service, and we always thought about, not so much the overall goal, but the small stuff to get to that goal … so you go in, and you make a top ten list, and you start picking away at it. But, the first thing you have to do is, you have to take the guys who are indicted off of the city payroll and put that money in escrow, and put them on leave without pay.”
“You’ve just got to do that right away because that sends a message very clearly that you’re going to do things differently, that the expectations that people have with their money is going to be different, and you start rebuilding that trust. And that’s what you’ve got to do from day one.”
“The way I am going to try and rebuild people’s trust is by being more trustworthy,” Rivera said.
Given that several high profile police officers and the Lawrence Firefighter’s Union endorsed Lantigua, Rivera was asked what his relationship would be with both departments.
“I have been telling every police officer I have been talking to and every firefighter, we are going to de-politicize this thing. I will never accept a check or a donation from a police officer or a firefighter. I think it’s wrong, I think their job is hard enough. I am going to be a partner at the negotiating table. I am not petty, I actually have a very short memory on things like that. It doesn’t really bother me at all. This thing is a difficult thing, politics is hard. People can disagree and some people can take it very personal, but I don’t.”
FOR LANTIGUA TO WIN NOW “LIKE CATCHING LIGHTENING IN A BOTTLE”
“We kept telling people he [Lantigua] lost that day in the primary. We had 52% of the vote come out and vote against him, and everybody kept on saying ‘he got 5,700 votes and you only got 2,900 votes’ … so, if we use that logic: we had a bigger stone to lift and we not only lifted it, but we surpassed him. So, we are definitely celebrating. Mathematically it is an impossible feat for him to come through. Even in a recount, the amount of energy and effort, and money he is going to have to spend to do that, I mean, we were better manned and better prepared and the election was tight. It showed that.”
“What happened yesterday [Friday] just reaffirmed what happened on Tuesday. The reality is, he [Lantigua] has to catch lightening in a bottle. It’s such a big number to overcome. These are optical scanners, he’d have to spend all that money and effort and energy … but, if he does all those things, we are going to be prepared to fight for every vote we earned. I think at the end of the day those numbers are not going to move.”
“I don’t know anyone who has said that there’s a path that is logical and probable that this thing gets overturned. Not to mention that I think people will think it was underhanded. Everything absolutely has to break Willie’s way, we saw last night that it’s going to be 50-50 if not 60-40 and he just can’t make up the difference.”
Asked what he thought the problems with ballot machines at the polls on Election Day, Rivera was quick to joke about Lantigua’s storied history with election fraud.
“One of the things that shows we have been vindicated is, when you have Willie Lantigua talking about ballot box problems, and problems at the polls, you know you’ve done something (right) there.” he said laughing.
“We knew early on a couple of things happened in the morning, ballot boxes broke down, and then some of the wardens were not following the overall rule. I have been hammering the Secretary of State’s Office for months about this stuff, and they came through. Ask anybody who, like me, have had a lot of problems with this [in the past], it was the most calm, the most orderly election I have ever seen in Lawrence in a very long time. It was nice.”
“I heard you talking about voter ID, I support voter ID,” he said.
“I think we definitely need Voter ID, it’s for everybody. And if there is an elderly person who doesn’t drive we have to find a way to help that person vote. There’s no reason [why we can’t] I mean we put a person on the moon. We have phones that you can use without wires. We can figure out a way so that we can know who’s voting and this is a process we can all feel good about.”
Rivera said he was not going to fully investigate the last four years of the Lantigua administration but would not stop others who want to.
“We have a lot of real important things to do and I am not going to get sidetracked with some of these things that are less important. They are more bureaucratic,” Rivera said.
River said if he gets a request for public information, “I’m not going to deny it. We are just going to give them the information. I think it’s really important for folks who want to do that type of research, like newspapers … they should do it. I’m not going to hold court. There isn’t going to be any kind of Nuremburg type stuff going on, here. We’re going to work to make the city better and if we do that, all the other stuff doesn’t matter.”
WHAT WILL LAWRENCE LOOK LIKE IN 4 YEARS
Rivera was asked what he wants people to say about Lawrence in four years.
“I think there are two things. Number one is, ‘Wow, there’s actually this much growth in Lawrence.’ Because if we do that, that means there are more jobs in Lawrence and then we will make a dent in the unemployment number. So many people don’t have jobs in Lawrence.
“The second thing is perception. That people can say, ‘I remember when Lawrence was a basket case. It’s not that way now. That people inside [the city] can feel like this is a great place. And people from the outside as well can think ,‘wow, something really special is happening in Lawrence and it’s different than it had been before.”
Rivera said he has not heard from, nor spoken to Mayor Lantigua since before Election Day.