EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

May 11, 2012

Custodian grilled on bad checks

Jose Rivera latest to testify in Lantigua grand jury probe

By Jill Harmacinski

LAWRENCE - A Lawrence public school custodian was questioned yesterday about "bad checks" before the Essex County Grand Jury investigating the administration of Mayor William Lantigua.

Jose Rivera, a custodian at the Leonard School, declined comment late yesterday morning as he left Salem Superior Court.

Rivera was accompanied by Lawrence defense attorney Anthony Ortiz who said his client was questioned about "bad checks." He then left the courthouse with his client.

A union employee, Rivera makes $19.43 per hour, or roughly $40,414 annually. He was hired in 2005, according to school department records.

The grand jury proceedings are secret. Grand jurors decide, based on the testimony they hear from witnesses, if a crime was committed. Then, they can hand down indictments.

A week ago, Lantigua's top aide Patrick Blanchette spent nearly four hours in the courthouse.

Previously, a number of current and former city officials testified including Leonard Degnan, Lantigua's former chief of staff, and Deputy police Chief Melix Bonilla.

The scope of the investigation remains unclear. However, in April 2011, sources confirmed it is a multi-jurisdictional investigation.

Some of the allegations investigators have been looking at include bid rigging, suspicious out-of-state travel, illegal swapping of city-owned cars, corruption and campaign finance violations.

Others who have also testified include Personnel Director Frank Bonet, Richard Fielding, Licensing Board chairman, Frank McCann, public retired public works director, and Jay Jackson, auxiliary police chief. Some 25 cases of documents, including copies of personnel and union records, were also wheeled into the grand jury.

Jackson is also the police department's facilities and communications manager. As part of his job, he oversees the department's fleet of vehicles.

Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter under the screenname EagleTribJill.