LAWRENCE — The City Council has replaced Mayra Lantigua on the Licensing Board, making her the third Lantigua bumped from the city payroll since Daniel Rivera defeated the first of them on Nov. 5.
The council’s 9-0 vote Tuesday nigh to replace Lantigua with businessman Pedro Torres came almost seven years after her term expired and five weeks after her former husband’s last day as mayor.
Lantigua had served on the Licensing Board since April 14, 2005, when Mayor Michael Sullivan nominated her to fill an unexpired term at a time when she was married to William Lantigua, who was then a state representative and Sullivan supporter. Her term expired June 1, 2007, but she continued to serve under a state law that allows members of local boards whose terms have expired to stay on until they are reappointed or replaced.
Several councilors protested that Mayra Lantigua should have resigned from the board when William Lantigua became mayor in January 2010. They said the position gave the mayor undue influence over who gets the limited number of liquor licenses the board hands out.
Former Mayor Lantigua rejected requests that he at least nominate Mayra Lantigua for re-appointment, apparently mindful of warnings that the council would reject her because of the alleged conflict.
Mayra Lantigua stayed on the board through all four years of her former husband’s term as mayor and was its only member for several months in 2010, after members Tom Murphy resigned and Rick Fielding, its former chairman, died.
William Lantigua elevated Mayra Lantigua to acting chairwoman after Fielding died in 2012, extending her reach over the local bars and clubs, some of which her former husband patronized.
Licensing Board chairmen receive a $2,600 stipend on top of the $2,500 that all three members are paid.
Rivera promised to replace Mayra Lantigua during his campaign for mayor last year. He followed through on the promise in his first days in office, when he nominated Torres to replace her.
Rivera also fired the woman identified by Lantigua as his current wife, Lorenza Ortega, who was a $50,000-a-year secretary in the Personnel Department. Lantigua’s first wife, Maggie Fawcett, is a $37,000-a-year traffic enforcement officer who remains on the city payroll.
Rivera will have a second chance to reshape the Licensing Board in June, when Ronald Martin’s term expires. Rivera opposed Martin’s nomination when Lantigua sent it down in November 2012, saying he had served too many years on various city agencies.
The third Licensing Board member is Leocadio Paulino, a building contractor. His term expires in 2018.
The council vote Tuesday was its second in 16 months to put Torres on the Licensing Board. Lantigua nominated him and the City Council approved him in October, but he was forced to quit after City Attorney Charles Boddy said his nomination left the board without the Republican member the law requires.
Martin is a Republican and Paulino is a Democrat, which now clears the path for Torres, who is unenrolled, to serve.
Licensing Board chairmen are chosen by the mayor. As Rivera’s only pick on the board, Torres is a frontrunner to chair it when he takes his seat at its next meeting Wednesday.
Torres, 48, who is general manager at Napolitano Marble and Granite, said he would support a moratorium on new liquor licenses in Lawrence. Rivera also supports a moratorium.
Torres told the council Tuesday that he would be an “activist member” on a board whose other members he said don’t do much outside their monthly meetings. He said he also wants to more tightly monitor the city’s boarding houses, which also are licensed by the board along with car dealers, flea markets, taxi companies, junk yards and any business that sells food.
“You never hear about other board members educating businesses,” Torres told the council before it confirmed him Tuesday, promising to tour the city’s bars and clubs to brief their owners on city regulations.
Councilor Marc Laplante recommended that Torres ask for a police officer to accompany him on his nightclub rounds.
“There’s a few bad apples out there,” Laplante warned him.