LAWRENCE — A first battle over Mayor William Lantigua’s $255 million budget proposal took shape yesterday when City Councilor Daniel Rivera alleged that Lantigua would put political operatives in the eight or so new jobs his budget creates and said all new hires should be cops hired off a Civil Service list.
Rivera’s proposal put Lantigua’s hiring practices at the center of this year’s budget debate, as it was last year when Rivera attempted to eliminate the position of a public works foreman who is one of Lantigua’s political lieutenants.
Rivera, the chairman of the council’s budget committee and a candidate for mayor, said the city needs new cops more than it needs road and street crews at the Department of Public Works. Lantigua has placed several of his political lieutenants at DPW and this year is asking for a net of five new positions — four laborers and a carpenter — in the department at a cost of $216,000, not including benefits.
“Past performance is an indication of future performance, especially at DPW,” Rivera said about Lantigua’s recent hires. “There are (workers) there he hired who don’t have the skill set. They’re just people that help in campaigns and don’t have any qualifications.”
Lantigua could not be reached yesterday.
Lantigua last year named his receptionist, Jorge Jaime, as DPW’s parks foreman, and named Joel Chalas as roads foreman. Both men are active in Lantigua’s political organization. Jaime also accompanied Lantigua on at least one of his recent trips to the Dominican Republic and last year was subpoenaed by the grand jury investigating corruption in the Lantigua administration. Jaime last year earned $51,504, the city’s payroll shows. Chalas earned $74,570.
Another man Lantigua appointed and promoted at DPW, parking attendant Justo Garcia, was charged last week with skimming thousands of dollars from the Museum Square garage.