LAWRENCE — Almost six years after her two-year appointment to the Licensing Board expired, a woman who may be married to Mayor William Lantigua still sits on the board and was recently appointed – by the mayor – to chair it.
Mayra Lantigua’s promotion to board chairwoman could more than double her stipend for service from $2,400 to $5,000 a year, which has some city councilors questioning whether the mayor has violated anti-nepotism laws. They also question whether the appointment is legal since a city law bars Licensing Board members from serving as chairperson if their term has expired.
“She might be a good person, but this doesn’t pass the smell test,” said Councilor Daniel Rivera, the only candidate in the race for mayor besides Lantigua. “A board that’s so important to all the issues we have in the city, you want to make sure all the members are beyond reproach.”
Mayra Lantigua was first named to fill an unexpired seat on the board on April 14, 2005 by then-Mayor Michael Sullivan at a time when she was married to Lantigua, who was then a state representative.
The mayor now lives with City Hall secretary Lorenza Ortega, and last year claimed she was his new wife, but he has never been clear about whether he and Mayra Lantigua have divorced.
Mayra Lantigua’s term on the Licensing Board expired June 1, 2007. Although mayors Sullivan and Lantigua never reappointed her, she has 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.
But Mayra Lantigua’s ascension to chair the Lawrence Licensing Board after the death of its former chairman late last year raises new questions about her tenure. The questions include whether the promotion adds to any conflict of interest that may have existed before Mayor Lantigua promoted the mother of three of his children to chair the board.