LAWRENCE, MA- Once again, Mayor William Lantigua has placed political patronage above the interests of Lawrence residents.
Lantigua this week named Jorge Jaime parks foreman, a post within the Department of Public Works responsible for overseeing more than 100 city parks, ball fields and other public spaces.
What are Jaime’s qualifications for his new job? He has been Lantigua’s receptionist at City Hall since the mayor took office in January 2010.
Jaime joins police Deputy Chief Melix Bonilla and Economic Development Director Patrick Blanchette among those given jobs based not on their qualifications but on their loyalty to Lantigua. Preposterous hirings such as these reveal Lantigua’s contempt for the people of Lawrence, who deserve to have skilled individuals in city posts doing work for which they are amply qualified.
Jaime’s new post increases his salary from about $39,000 to $58,569, including a $5,000 stipend as tree warden. Lantigua gave Jaime a provisional appointment to the post, which meant he did not have to advertise the vacancy.
Lantigua shows no interest in defending or explaining his handing out jobs as political favors. In his story on the Jaime appointment, reporter Keith Eddings described the runaround he got from the mayor’s administration.
Lantigua did not return a phone call. Jaime hung up when reached by phone at the DPW garage. Acting DPW Commissioner John Isensee referred questions about Jaime’s appointment, including a request for the job specifications and qualifications for parks foreman, to City Attorney Charles Boddy, whose secretary referred the request to City Clerk William Maloney. Maloney directed The Eagle-tribune to file a Public Records Law request for the information.
In Lawrence, it seems, the buck doesn’t stop anywhere.
The City Council in the past has rolled over for Lantigua’s political appointments. At least this time, a few councilors objected.
District F Councilor Marc Laplante said such political appointments destroy morale within a department.
“I want to take a minute to register my absolute disgust with the mayor’s office and its recent actions with respect to appointing a receptionist from his office to be a parks foreman,” Laplante said. “We seem to forget that (DPW) is not a playpen area (where) we put our political patronage.”
Laplante, a frequent Lantigua critic, was targeted by the mayor in the last election. Lantigua put up Jaime’s brother, Randy Jaime, as a candidate against Laplante, who promptly mopped the floor with the political novice.
Councilor Dan Rivera, the chairman of the budget committee, had a good suggestion for how the council should respond to Lantigua’s political appointments — withhold the funding for their salaries. He suggested starting with DPW chief Isensee, who has been acting commissioner for most of Lantigua’s term. The council last year rejected Lantigua’s request to give him a permanent appointment.
“We have the ability to withhold funding for different positions until we get a search process that brings us a highly qualified, highly sought-after candidate for the money we have on the table,” Rivera said. “Until we do that, we won’t be taken seriously on these issues of frustration that people are feeling.”
Doing so would send a message to Lantigua that his cheap use of city government for his own aggrandizement will no longer be tolerated.
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