EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

November 17, 2013

Winners, losers if torch is passed at City Hall

LAWRENCE — He gave high-paying jobs to his political lieutenants, signed the paychecks issued to family and friends and demoted or fired his critics while keeping indicted employees on the payroll.

Mayor William Lantigua’s political associates and friends may be the first out the door at City Hall on Jan. 2 if Daniel Rivera can hold onto his microscopic lead — less than four-tenths of 1 percent — in the recount of the Nov. 5 mayoral race scheduled for Saturday.

The potential job losers include Lorenza Ortega, Lantigua’s girlfriend or wife — she has been identified as both — who as a $50,000-a-year confidential secretary in the Personnel Department has access to some of the most sensitive information at 200 Common St.

Indicted employees Melix Bonilla, the deputy police chief who managed Lantigua’s 2009 campaign, and Justo Garcia, the parking attendant who is the mayor’s campaign photographer, will lose their paychecks until the corruption charges against them are resolved, Rivera said several times during the campaign.

Lantigua has continued paying Bonilla his $140,000 annual salary since he was indicted on extortion and other charges 14 months ago. Garcia has continued collecting his $39,520 salary since he was charged with skimming collections at the Museum Square garage in June.

The lights also may go down a bit at several of the bars and clubs where Lantigua often passed the after-hours of his administration and held several campaign functions, including Rio Bar and Grill, Terra Luna and Bali’s. He helped several obtain their liquor licenses and keep them when trouble hit,

There would be winners, too, if the torch is passed at City Hall on Jan. 2.

City Councilors Marc Laplante, Eileen Bernal and Sandy Almonte – who was once a Lantigua favorite – endorsed Rivera and campaigned for him. The three, along with Nilka Alvarez-Rodriguez, who won an at-large seat on the council in November after an absence of four years, would likely form the core of any Rivera bloc on the council, which would make their calls the first to get answered on the third floor.

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