By: Tom Duggan – January, 2007
While other communities are making cuts in their budgets and forcing some layoffs, Lawrence continues to spend on unnecessary items. Recently, DPW spent its time, resources and money to remodel and make improvements to the City Council chambers and the City Council office floors at a cost of about $16,000 to the taxpayers.
The renovations included the following: two air conditioners at a cost of $6,523.50, City Council chamber floor at $6,494.81 and the City Council office floor at a cost of $2,784.91. The Valley Patriot has obtained a memorandum by DPW Director Frank McCann to Mayor Michael Sullivan, dated November 16, 2006, detailing the itemized costs of these renovations.
The funding source for these renovations comes from the DPW budget as opposed to the City Council budget.
Ironically, Council President Patrick Blanchette had been attacking former Budget and Finance Director John Griffin for making renovationsin his office, calling those renovations “plush” and “unneeded at a time when the people of Lawrence are facing an increase in taxes or a reduction in city services.”
Blanchette used the renovations as one of his reasons for calling on Griffin to be fired by the city. After months of verbal assaults on Griffin at council meetings and in the Eagle~Tribune, Griffin negotiated a buyout of his contract and has left the city’s employ.
The City Council budget is more than $200 million. When District “B” City Councilor Grisel Silva asked Blanchette who had paid for the cost of renovating the council office during a City Council meeting, Blanchette told the council that it was paid for by “Comcast,” in direct contradiction to the memo obtained by The Valley Patriot.
City councilors say they were unaware that these renovations were being paid for out of the DPW budget while one councilor told The Valley Patriot that the councilors “never voted on these renovations and believe that the money should be paid out of the City Council’s line item in the budget, not DPW.”
“We approved the DPW budget to pay for road repair, plowing, garbage removal, etc. We did not vote on the DPW budget to pay for new floors in the City Council chambers,” Councilor Silva said. Councilor Gonzalez agreed. “Why does the City Council have a budget if it is not going to pay for City Council items? We should pay the DPW back,” Gonzalez continued. Most city councilors The Valley Patriot asked had no idea where the money came from to pay for the renovations. They also did not recall any votes taken with respect to the improvements. Attempts to speak to the City Council president, Patrick Blanchette, were unsuccessful.
Patrick Blanchette on John Griffin’s Office Renovations
In a memo to Mayor Mike Sullivan in November, Blanchette called renovations to Budget and Finance Director John Griffin’s office as “a gross misuse of public funds” and said it is another reason he “should be fired.”
“While other departments have faced severe budget cuts and freezes on open positions, Mr. Griffin spends freely to pad his office with designer furniture,” Blanchette wrote.
“This is not corporate America, but rather a city office, which is entrusted upon us by the people of this city. I’m sorry, but creating ‘Trump Style’ office suites is not in the cards for this city and ought not to be justified,” Blanchette said.
“His (Griffin’s) budget never had the money to pay for it, so he illegally paid for it out of the Personnel Department,” Blanchette said of a bill of the $10,000 of Griffin’s office improvements.
*Editors Note: at the same time Blanchette was making these comments publicly about John Griffin, he was taking advantage of $16,000 in office renovations in his own City Council office.