LAWRENCE — The heat's off the Lantigua-Ortega household.
After finding City Hall secretary Lorenza Ortega improperly received a $500 heating subsidy last winter for the Boxford Street condominium she shares with Mayor William Lantigua, state social service officials say similar subsidies Ortega has received since 2006 were proper.
"The client in question has proven eligibility for benefits received from 2006 to 2010," said Mary-Leah Assad, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Housing and Community Development, which funnels the federal heating subsidies to local governments and non-profit agencies for distribution to residents.
Ortega, who works in the city's Personnel Department, earns $45,000 annually and has shared her condo with three children since she bought it in 2006, which made the household eligible for the heating aid. She lost her eligibility for the subsidy after the city's $100,000-a-year mayor moved in, but continued collecting it. In all, Ortega received $3,900 in heating aid over six years.
Lantigua refused to say where he lived for the first 17 months of his mayoralty, giving his address as "City Hall" whenever he spoke to the City Council. He confirmed widespread speculation that he was living with Ortega at his state-of-the-city address to the City Council on May 3, when he opened his remarks by giving the condo unit at 86 Boxford Street as his home.
On May 11, The Eagle-Tribune reported that the condo was receiving the federal heating subsidy.
Hours after the story was published, state investigators arrived at the Greater Lawrence Community Action Council, the Essex Street nonprofit that distributes the heating subsidy to the poor in the region. Also that day, Lantigua issued a press release saying he was not aware he was living in a condo heated by taxpayers and said the $500 subsidy for last winter's heating bill would be returned to GLCAC.