EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

May 11, 2011

Taxpayer dollars help heat mayor's home

LAWRENCE — Mayor William Lantigua makes more than $100,000 a year, but taxpayers are helping pay to heat the condominium he shares with his girlfriend.

Lorenza Ortega, a $45,000-a-year City Hall employee, acknowledged yesterday she collects federal fuel aid to heat the Boxford Street condo that Lantigua now calls home. She refused to say how much she collected this year, but the annual subsidy could have been as high as $1,165.

"I just applied like everyone does," Ortega said. "I called up. I applied. They gave it to me. Nothing special."

Depending on how many of her children share the house, Ortega may have been eligible for the subsidy before Lantigua moved in. But with a combined income of $145,000, she and Lantigua could have 15 children living in the condo and still exceed the federal ceiling for eligibility by almost $50,000.

Ortega initially said she began receiving the subsidy "a couple of years ago," then said she began receiving it last year. But she cut off an interview in her City Hall office yesterday before she could be asked about the size of her household or when Lantigua moved in. Lantigua did not return phone calls.

In Lawrence, the federal heating subsidies are distributed by the Greater Lawrence Community Action Council, an anti-poverty agency a block from City Hall where Lantigua has been working to exert influence since two days after he took the oath as mayor. On Jan. 6, 2010, Lantigua wrote the agency's board of directors demanding that three members of the board be removed and replaced by his aides and associates.

Lantigua attempted to engineer another coup on the board last month, after The Eagle-Tribune disclosed that GLCAC's executive director was spending workdays playing cards and video poker at the Elks Club on Andover Street. Lantigua called the disclosure "a fiasco," blamed it on the board of directors and demanded state regulators undertake a broad investigation into the agency.

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