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December 29, 2013

State overseer blocks three Lantigua promotions

LAWRENCE — The city’s fiscal overseer has blocked outgoing Mayor William Lantigua’s attempt to promote three police officers, intercepting some of the ongoing shuffle of city jobs in Lantigua’s final days in office.

Mayor-elect Daniel Rivera said he will review the other so-called midnight appointments when he takes office Thursday to ensure that the proper process was followed and that those hired are qualified for the jobs Lantigua gave them.

“It doesn’t matter,” Rivera said about the sudden job shuffle at City Hall. “On (Jan. 2), we’ll review all those actions. It’ll just be more of the work that we have to do.”

Most of the promotions and new hires are occurring at the Department of Public Works, which has been the primary source of patronage appointments for Lantigua over the last four years.

Most recently, Lantigua gave permanent jobs to five men he initially hired as temporary laborers, even though none had the required license to drive trucks and operate heavy machinery when he hired them and none obtained it during the 90-day temporary appointments. Laborers earn up to $41,324 annually.

Also at the DPW, Lantigua on Dec. 11 promoted his recycling coordinator, Andrys Castillo, to a carpenter’s position. The move boosted Castillo’s salary by about $4,000, to about $49,000, and gives him the protection of a union, although he would be on probation for six months and so could be terminated without cause.

Several of those who would benefit from the job shuffle volunteered on Lantigua’s campaign or donated to it, including Castillo and Police Officer Carmen Purpora, who contributed $400 this year, records show.

Although Purpora is fourth on a Civil Service list of officers eligible for promotion to sergeant, Lantigua could have promoted him if he were able to disqualify any one of the three officers above Purpora on the list. Police officers earn an average of about $50,000; sergeants earn an average of about $65,000.

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