Slight of Hand With Taxpayer’s Property: Exactly Where Are Those City Computers Going?


Originally published on (3-3-02) 


  Before there was a Valley Patriot (established in 2004) there was, a blog before there were blogs, a news webpage before there were news webpages. Long before there was an Eagle Tribune web page or a there was a Valley Patriot Publisher Tom Duggan has allowed The Valley Patriot Web archive to list some of his previous columns going as far back as 1999. 


Where are those, so called obsolete, taxpayer funded Apple Computers going?

The Dominican Republic, That’s Where!

 State Representative Jose Santiago, doing the bidding of his creator Willie Lantigua, stood before the Lawrence City Council last week asking them to give city owned, Apple computers to Lawrence Community Works (a so-called nonprofit in the City of Lawrence) for the express purpose of conducting English as a Second Language classes for adult education.

 But, since the issue was not on the City Council agenda, the council had to take a unanimous vote at their last meeting to add it at the last minute.

Representative Santiago asked the city council to act “immediately” by declaring the issue an “emergency” further urging them to approving the transfer of the computers that night.

“I talked to Marcos (Devers) and Nunzio (DiMarca) prior to the meeting and asked them to take the item up as an emergency so that the vote could be taken that night, but Mike Sweeney was against it and tried to adjourn the meeting. I don’t know why he is against this. These computers are going to help underprivileged children in the community,” Representative Santaigo told after the meeting. 

 The computers in question are Apple computers that the city no longer needs according to Santiago. Santiago said that the computers were going to be thrown away by the Economic Development department because they were “obsolete.

“They wouldn’t listen to me, they voted not to take the issue up as an emergency which is the same as voting against it,” Santiago said. I just wanted to do something good for the community and get the computers donated before these computers get thrown away,” he added.

 City Councilor Mike Sweeney said the item came up at the last minute with no paperwork, and he never voted to deny anything to anyone, “It was 11:20 at night, I never said a word about this issue. Not a word. We didn’t have a scrap of paper on this, no backup information at all. There was never even a motion made by any Councilor to take this as an emergency. We needed more information before we could act on this. It was a last minute item. It wasn’t an emergency and here we are a week later, I am sure those computers have not been thrown away.”

According to a review of the official video tapes of the meeting, has determined that Mike Sweeney never spoke against the computer donation.

 Last weekend, Rep Santiago told local radio listeners on WHAV (in Spanish) that Sweeney “voted against giving computers to poor Children in the Dominican Republic.”

Santiago then told the Spanish newspaper “Rumbo” that the computers were being donated to Fi Fi Garcia, who runs a program at 11 Lawrence Street “for gifted and underprivileged children.” But, that’s not what Fi Fi Garcia told her listening audience on WCCM last Sunday. There, Garcia said that the computers were going to the Dominican Republic. Garcia is also an ally and friend of Santiago and his mentor Willie Lantigua. 

 When asked to explain this, Santiago told Rumbo;

“The law states that we have to give the computers to a non profit group and Fi Fi Garcia doesn’t have her non profits status, so I asked the Mayor if we could donate the computers to Community Works who, in turn, will donate them to Fi Fi Garcia and work with her to set up ESL classes at her office on Lawrence Street. I don’t know if they are goin to the Dominican Republic after that. I can’t say for sure, “

 “This is all news to me,” Councilor Sweeney responded when contacted by about the real destination of the “obsolete computers”.

“He absolutely told us that the computers were being used for an ESL lab at Lawrence Community Works,” Sweeney said outraged. “Now we are hearing that the computers are going to Fi FI Gacia, but Fi FI Garcia says on the radio they are going to the Dominican Republic. That fact alone is the very reason we need to ask questions at the sub-committee level and investigate exactly what is going on before we give away anything. I don’t know where these computers are going and I think the Councilors ought to do their job by having answers to these questions before we just hand over city equipment. “

 District “A” Councilor Patrick Blachette said he still doesn’t know where the computers are going to end up, “We assumed these computers were going to Lawrence Community Works for Lawrence residents, we were never told they were going to the Dominican Republic or Fi Fi Garcia. I still don’t know where they are going but I do have some concerns about the process. I have never seen city eqipment come before the Council before and I think we have to have all the information before we take a vote.”


So what we have here is a bunch of computers that our State Rep. and his pal Willie, wants to to donate to a nonprofit organization that is supposed to be working on low income housing issues in the city (Lawrence Community Works).

We have Lawrence Community works using their 501(c)3 non profit tax exempt status to funnel the computers to an organization that is NOT a non profit group, circumventing the law that says the city must give taxpayer owned property to a non profit.

We have a radio personality who has an office at 11 Lawrence Street who is supposedly going to receive these city computers, but she says she is sending them to the Dominican Republic.

No one on the city council was told any of this the night of the “emergency” vote that Santiago, his mentor Willie Lantigua and their “godmother” Isabel Melendez orchestrated quite literally in the cover of night. 

 So Many Questions

Are there no real needs in the City of Lawrence or children here in our city who can benefit from the use of Apple computers?

Shouldn’t other non profit groups have had a chance to apply for these computers instead of giving them to a non profit Lantigua and Santiago are connected to without the publics’ knowledge?

And, why was the Council not told these computers were really being funneled through a non profit to be ultimately given to a Santiago-Lantigua “team member” who does not have non profit status?

Doesn’t that violate the intent of the law?

There is something really wrong going on here when the Lawrence City Council is taking votes to give away city property at 11:30 at night, after the public has long gone home, with no public notice, no official information given to the Council and numerous questions unanswered.

 Emergency? What emergency?

To put this in perspective, consider that minutes before the “obsolete” computer discusson took place in city hall chambers, Lawrence City Councilors discussed a proposal to increase benefits for retired firefighters.

Some Councilors argued that they wanted to send a letter to Mayor Sullivan directly instead of going through the proper procedure of sending it to a sub-committee. 

 Councilor Gosselin attacked fellow councilors for not following the rules saying, “This is new business, it should go to committee. What are we doing, making up our own rules here? We just can’t take a motion on the floor, we’ll be doing that on each issue. I think someone should have done their homework on this. It has to go to a sub-committee. We shouldn’t be discussing this issue here tonight. “

 Nunzio DiMarca agreed, saying “I agree with Councilor Gosselin if that’s the rule and it’s a new business item it should go to committee.”

 But when the computer donation issue came up only one minute later, both councilors DiMarca and Gosselin flip flopped on their position, supporting a vote to give away city computers even though nobody knew where they were really going. Both Councilors voted against adjourning the meeting and voted against tabling the item supporting a motion to declare an “emergency” and give the computers away immediately.

 What’s more, Gosselin vehemently stated that the firefighter benefit issue was “not an emergency, we need to get some work done on this and send it to committee, they can wait.”

But Councilor Gosselin was perfectly willing to give away city computers at 11:30 at night with no public hearing, no investigation by the sub-committee and no documentation presented before her.

That’s because the councilors who voted “yes” to give away perfectly good Apple computers didn’t need any documentation before giving away city property in the dead of night. Rep. Santiago and Willie Lantigua orchestrated enough council votes behind the scenes to do what they always seem to do, send city property to the Dominican Republic, Willie Lantigua’s hometown of Teneras to be precise.  

For the record, The final vote on the ten “obsolete” computer donations was to table the issue which , under council rules means the issue is not to be discussed or sent to a sub committee.

In violation of the Councils’ rules, the item went to the Ordinance sub committee where it was discussed and approved anyway.

There is no leadership in Lawrence.

When will it stop?

When the likes of Rep. Jose L. Santiago and Willie Lantigua are finally removed from the sphere of influence in Lawrence politics. Until that happens you can bet a lot more of our tax money and resources will be heading to the Carribean. 

Because nobody really cares. 

What a great way to run a city