LAWRENCE — In the first push-back to the purge at City Hall in the month since Mayor Daniel Rivera took office, former Comptroller David Camasso is asking the City Council to reinstate him to the $66,000-a-year job he lost Jan. 10.
Camasso is the most senior city employee of the two dozen or so fired or demoted since Rivera succeeded former Mayor William Lantigua on Jan. 2.
Camasso, who chairs the Republican City Committee, is the first former city worker to challenge his dismissal. He declined to comment yesterday about his effort to regain his job, which he held for six years.
His boss, Budget Director Mark Ianello, said Camasso lost his right to ask the City Council to restore him to his post when the city’s finance offices were consolidated under the Budget and Finance Department four years ago. Under the reorganization, the comptroller, treasurer, tax collector, purchasing agent, tax assessor and information technology director no longer are independent department heads but instead report to the budget chief. The reorganization stripped them of their right to a council hearing that department heads can request when a mayor fires them.
“We just decided to go in another direction,” Ianello said yesterday about the decision to terminate Camasso, which he made in consultation with Rivera. He would not elaborate.
“It’s supposed to be the second most powerful position in finance,” Rivera said. “It’s not. But that’s not why we fired him.”
Rivera also would not elaborate.
City Council President Modesto Maldonado has asked City Attorney Charles Boddy for an opinion about whether Camasso retains a right to ask the council to overturn his dismissal. Boddy said he has not completed his review.
Rivera said he has not settled on a replacement for Camasso or for the city treasurer’s job, which was unfilled for most of Lantigua’s term. Ianello is performing the duties of both jobs.
Comptrollers serve as chief accountants and auditors for municipal governments.
Among the other city workers fired or demoted since Rivera succeeded Lantigua are Lorenza Ortega, a Personnel Department secretary who Lantigua has said is his wife; Deputy Police Chief Melix Bonilla, who managed Lantigua’s 2009 campaign and is under indictment on corruption charges; Justo Garcia, Lantigua’s former campaign photographer who is under indictment for allegedly skimming proceeds from a garage; and Richard Berke, a real estate specialist who worked for Lantigua since he was a state representative. Several others have retired or resigned since Jan. 2, including Fire Chief Jack Bergeron and Water and Sewer Department Director Robert Fazio.
Rivera fired Ortega, Berke and Garcia. He demoted Bonilla to sergeant. He also fired a third of the 21 workers in the Parking Department, including Garcia, and a half dozen or so public works employees.