By Keith Eddings
---- — LAWRENCE — A developer who stiffed the city on a $68,625 tax debt four years ago was invited to join the transition team Daniel Rivera is assembling to advise him if he prevails in today’s recount, but his name was removed from the team roster 14 hours after documents about the unpaid tax bills surfaced.
Two aides said Rivera was not aware of developer Alberto Nunez’s property tax delinquencies and that his name was added to the roster by mistake after he declined the invitation to join the transition team.
Rivera, a two-term city councilor who leads Lantigua by 58 votes going into today’s recount, announced the team’s membership at a press conference at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.
At 7:24 a.m. Thursday, an aide sent out an email saying Nunez was not on the team.
“Copy error, it happens (mostly at the most in-opportune times),” campaign aide Kate Reilly said in an e-mail explaining the mistake.
“We were not aware of anything to do with taxes and haven’t seen anything to that effect,” said Maggie Super Church, who is co-chairing Rivera’s transition team.
Nunez reiterated Reilly’s account that he was added to the team by mistake.
“We have a very good relationship, but when I talked to him, I said I’ve been so busy,” Nunez said about a conversation he had with Rivera about serving on the housing committee of the transition team. “I have five or six projects going on. And I’ve been sick. I have too much on my plate.”
Wednesday’s announcement that Nunez would not be on Rivera’s transition team came a few hours before Kathy Runge, who ran unsuccessfully for City Council on Nov. 5, e-mailed tax documents showing Nunez was $68,625 delinquent on property taxes for four parcels in Lawrence in 2008 and 2009. Unable to collect the debt, the city sold it to a private collection agency, presumably for less than it was worth, the records show.
Nunez said his tax debt to the city accumulated as the housing market collapsed. He said he paid off the debt to the collection agency, Plymouth Park Tax Service of Morristown, N.J.
The City Attorney’s office did not return a phone call seeking to learn the revenue the city lost selling Nunez’s tax debt. Plymouth Park Tax Service also did not return a call.
Nunez, a Methuen resident, said he avoids politics because of the mess it can create for his development company, which right now is feuding with residents of the Avon Street neighborhood over the redevelopment of the former Holy Trinity Church, where he is planning to build housing.
When he does engage, Nunez hedges his bets. He contributed $700 to Lantigua’s campaign organization over the last year and a half. He gave $250 to Rivera this year, and gave another $200 to firefighter Juan “Manny” Gonzalez and $300 to state Rep. Marcos Devers, who both ran unsuccessfully for mayor in the Sept. 17 preliminary election.
Reilly said Efrain Rolon, deputy director of the Lawrence Housing Authority, will get the seat on the housing committee that Nunez held overnight. Rolon will co-chair the committee with Jessica Andors, executive director of Lawrence Community Works.
Rivera’s press release announcing the transition team had another inopportune “oops,” or two. It misspelled the names of Quinn Gonell (it’s not “Quin”) and City Councilor Marc Laplante (it’s not La Plante).