LAWRENCE — Mayor Daniel Rivera and a City Council led by a new president with an assertive style are headed for what could be a first showdown tomorrow, when a closely divided council has signaled it may reject his choice for city planning director.
The council’s Personnel Committee rejected Theresa Park’s nomination in a 3-1 vote last week as councilors praised her qualifications but scolded Rivera for putting her on the payroll at a $75,000 salary with a $1,900 monthly stipend before sending them her nomination.
By Friday, a poll of city councilors indicated Park may be a vote short of the five needed for confirmation.
The challenge to the new mayor is the most recent of several by a council that is itself not yet four months old.
Its budget committee is reviewing Rivera’s decision to give the city’s ambulance contract to Lawrence General Hospital without advertising it and to waive what could amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in 911 dispatch fees.
Another committee is reviewing Rivera’s decision to rehire Public Works Supervisor Greg Morris, who was fired by former Mayor William Lantigua after employees he supervised were found dumping snow into the Merrimack River.
Several councilors also have split with Rivera over whether to pay a contractor Lantigua directed to pave 16 streets without a contract in the weeks before last year’s mayoral election. Rivera said he will block any effort to pay the $294,000 bill.
Although the lineups on the council shift slightly with each issue, the general alignment taking shape suggests the council is dividing into two camps: those who supported Lantigua’s re-election last year and those who supported Rivera.
Among the councilors, Oneida Aquino was Lantigua’s most reliable vote over the four years he was mayor. Since January, she’s emerged as Rivera’s most outspoken critic.