By Keith Eddings
---- — LAWRENCE — Mayor Daniel Rivera has rehired a public works supervisor who was fired by former Mayor William Lantigua after a worker he supervised was discovered dumping snow into a Merrimack River canal.
Greg Morris, who was then also a member of the Lawrence School Committee, was initially suspended without pay from his $85,000-a-year-job overseeing maintenance of the city’s streets, parks and garages.
George Daley, a foreman, and Tony Matteo, who was driving the front-end loader that dumped the snow into the canal, also were suspended for several weeks pending an investigation, then were suspended without pay for a week.
The dumping occurred near the Claddagh Pub at Canal and Amesbury streets at 2:30 a.m. on Feb. 1, 2011. A passer-by reported it to police.
Morris said at the time that he was not on duty when Matteo dumped the snow into the canal and was not aware that any DPW drivers dumped into the canal. Lantigua said Morris admitted to him that he told workers to dump their loads into the canal.
Acting Public Works Director John Isensee said that in the meeting with Lantigua, Morris took responsibility for the dumping and told the former mayor, “‘If you want to punish somebody, punish me.’”
“‘Great,’” Isensee said Lantigua responded. “‘You’re fired.’”
“He should never have been fired,” Isensee said. “Greg actually sacrificed himself for those guys.”
Plowed snow is typically contaminated with salt, sand, trash, oil and other contaminants. The Merrimack River is a major source of drinking water in the region.
Morris would not comment on the incident yesterday, except to reiterate that he wasn’t aware of it and wasn’t working at the time.
Rivera said that he hired Morris back at Isensee’s request.
“The former mayor put so many unqualified DPW employees on staff,” he said. “We needed someone who had the heavy equipment licenses and Lawrence street experience to deal with the impending snow events of the season.”
Morris was working on a maintenance crew for the state Department of Transportation when he applied to return to the Lawrence DPW as a heavy equipment operator. He said he was not asked about the dumping incident when he interviewed for the job.
Morris, 44, a Lawrence resident, said he sought to return to the Lawrence DPW after Rivera defeated Lantigua in November.
“It’s a new direction with the city,” he said. “I thought it would be a good time to apply for the job and come on back.”
His is earning about $52,000 annually, Isensee said.