EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

November 5, 2012

Mayor suggests $25K raise, more duties for embattled election worker

LAWRENCE - The City Clerk and its Personnel Director want election official Rafael Tejeda placed on leave while the Massachusetts Secretary of State investigates allegations that he faked names on nominating petitions and then certified the names as valid.

Mayor William Lantigua has a different plan for Tejeda: vastly expanding his oversight of local elections and giving him a raise of up to $25,000.

Tomorrow, the City Council will receive Lantigua’s request to redefine the job Tejeda has held since he was hired as a “Bilingual Coordinator” to assist Spanish-speaking voters as part of a settlement with the federal Department of Justice, which had alleged that election practices in Lawrence discriminated against minorities.

Lantigua is proposing renaming the post “Election Coordinator,” and assigning it responsibility for supervising all employees in the Election Division – there are now just three, including Tejeda – as well as the hundreds of poll workers the division hires for each election.

The Election Coordinator would provide “specialized, complex advanced level of support of all aspects of elections,” including continued implementation of the federal consent decree, voter outreach and, in the absence of the City Clerk, which oversees the Election Division, “the complete administration and conduct of election activities.”

The Bilingual Coordinator now earns $30,000, which would increase to up to $55,000 if the position is redefined, according to city Personnel Director Frank Bonet.

Bonet could not say yesterday whether Tejeda, as the incumbent, would automatically be moved over to the new title and get the salary hike, or whether the job would be posted and Tejeda would have to apply if he wanted it.

Tejeda has denied faking the names on petitions that put Frank Moran on the Democratic line in the 17th Essex House District in today’s election.

Moran, now the City Council President, said he would refer Lantigua’s request to redefine the election job and boost the salary to committee at the council meeting tomorrow night.

“There couldn’t be a worse time to propose a pay increase for an employee whose actions are cast in doubt,” said City Councilor Marc Laplante. “Before the council should consider increasing the job responsibilities and pay for Mr. Tejeda, a full examination must be undertaken regarding his role, if any, in improperly signing nomination papers. The accusations against him are very serious and must be dealt with first.”

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