LAWRENCE — Mayor Daniel Rivera took the oath of office in a private ceremony at City Hall just after 7 p.m. yesterday, taking over from a mayor who has not been seen in City Hall since just after he lost a recount several weeks ago and who was not heard from even as the winter storm barreled into the city yesterday, officials said.
Former Mayor William Lantigua’s absence helped hasten Rivera’s transition into office, which began in earnest two days ago when Rivera met with the city’s fire, police and public works chiefs and school officials to begin planning for the snow that arrived in the city in Lantigua’s last hours in office and continued into Rivera’s first.
Rivera issued no public comment after his official swearing in last night, which will be followed by another oath delivered by U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren at an inaugural ceremony at the North Common Education Complex at 9 a.m. Saturday. But as his first emergency swirled in white around him, the new mayor issued a blizzard of pink slips and demotions to city employees hired by the former one.
Most significantly, he demoted Deputy Police Chief Melix Bonilla back to sergeant and suspended his pay until the extortion, embezzlement and fraud charges pending against him are resolved. Lantigua promoted Bonilla to the deputy’s post just after taking office and put him on paid leave after he was indicted in September 2010. Bonilla managed Lantigua’s 2009 campaign for mayor and was regularly at his side during Lantigua’s re-election campaign last year.
Rivera also fired Justo Garcia, a parking attendant who Lantigua put on paid leave after his indictment for skimming proceeds from a garage and for working on Lantigua’s campaign while on city time; and Richard Berke, who helped manage city real estate and had worked for Lantigua since his days as a state representative.