LAWRENCE — Mayor William Lantigua’s nine-month effort to fill seats on the Licensing Board ended this week as it began — with an exchange of allegations between the mayor and a sharply divided City Council and a renewed round of questions about the qualifications of the board’s membership.
Even as the protracted saga over the Licensing Board vacancies wrapped up Monday night with the council’s narrow, back-to-back votes to approve Lantigua’s latest two nominees, the mayor left the council with a finger-wagging scolding and a taunt.
“(If) it’s me who you want, you will have that opportunity next year,” Lantigua told the council, referring to his upcoming re-election campaign.
The council votes ended a losing streak for Lantigua that saw his four earlier efforts to fill the vacancies derailed by the council or the City Attorney. This time, the council gave a mixed backing to his nominees, although several councilors said they were voting against them because of what one called the “tainted process,” including that there would be no time to send the nominees to committee for review if the remade Licensing Board were to meet as scheduled later Monday night.
The council voted 5-4 to approve Ronald Martin, a retired IRS employee who resigned from the Board of Registrars after 14 years to take the Licensing Board seat, and 6-3 to approve Leocadio Paulino, a building contractor.
The votes gave the three-member Licensing Board the quorum it needed to meet later that night for the first time since August. Its brand new members, led by chairwoman Mayra Lantigua, the mayor’s ex-wife, confronted an overflowing agenda and issued a string of licenses and other approval to applicants who have been waiting as long as seven months.
At least one applicant noted the revenues he lost as the Licensing Board idled, waiting for a quorum, while Mayor Lantigua and the council stumbled through the process.