LAWRENCE — Mayor William Lantigua has nominated a maintenance worker and a retail manager to the Licensing Board and asked the City Council to approve the appointments as early as tonight so that the three-member board will have the quorum it needs to meet next week.
City Council President Frank Moran said yesterday he will ask the council to approve Lantigua’s request to declare the two vacancies on the Licensing Board an emergency, a step that would allow the council to fill the seats immediately rather than send them to its personnel committee for review.
“This board needs to go back to business,” Moran said. “As councilors, we need to make a decision to allow this board to keep working.”
Several councilors yesterday said they knew little of the two men Lantigua nominated - Pedro Torres, general manager at Napolitano Marble & Granite, and Luis Martinez, facilities director at the YWCA of Greater Lawrence. They were split on whether they should bypass the committee process and consider the nominations tonight with the hope that the Licensing Board could be back at full strength for the first time in 10 months.
The three-member board was reduced to two when Thomas Murphy resigned Jan. 1, then to one when its chairman, Richard Fielding, died Sept. 1. Lantigua nominated high school administrator Alfonso Garcia to Murphy’s seat in March, but the council rejected him. After Fielding’s death last month, Lantigua declared that the second vacancy created an emergency on the board, which he said allowed him to skirt the council’s review and make a temporary appointment.
He put Garcia in the seat. Last week, City Attorney Charles Boddy said the appointment was illegal and that any licenses Garcia voted to approve at the Licensing Board’s meeting on Sept. 26 were void.
The standoff over the vacancies could end tonight if the City Council votes to bypass its personnel committee and approves at least one of Lantigua’s nominees.
Councilor Marc Laplante said he will suggest that the council and its personnel committee schedule special meetings over the next week to consider the two nominations.
“It is an artificial deadline that needlessly rushes the process, and will likely circumvent a thoughtful council vote,” Laplante said. He added that voting tonight would make it difficult for the council to verify that the candidates meet the technical qualifications for the job, including that they are current on their property taxes.
Councilor Daniel Rivera said he will vote to declare the emergency so the council can vote on the nominations, but will do so grudgingly.
“This is an emergency created by the mayor,” said Rivera, the council’s vice president. “He should have done this in a more timely manner. He should not have been playing games by sending someone who wasn’t fit (to serve on the Licensing Board) and didn’t have the council’s support.”
The reference was to Garcia, whom the council rejected because of the conflicts he might face by voting on city policy while also collecting a city paycheck.
Yesterday, Garcia said Boddy, the city attorney, embarrassed Lantigua by advising the council that the mayor acted outside the law when he put Garcia on the Licensing Board without the council’s consent. He said Boddy should be fired.
Boddy and Lantigua could not be reached.
Lantigua has tapped Martinez for public service before. In June, Lantigua named him to the committee that searched for a new schools superintendent. The committee dissolved six months later without making a recommendation.
Martinez is facilities director at the YWCA of Greater Lawrence. He could not be reached yesterday, but his application cited his “ability to work with many director/department heads” as his top qualification for a seat on the Licensing Board. He lives on East Pleasant Street.
Torres, 46, a West Street resident, has managed Napolitano Marble and Granite on Andover Street for 16 years.
“I own my own house. I run a business in the city. I have two grandkids,” Torres said about his decision to apply for a seat on the Licensing Board. “I think it’s time for me to see if I can make some changes.”
Torres said he would have supported the Licensing Board’s vote last year to require local bars and nightclubs to close an hour earlier, at 1 a.m., on Sunday mornings in an effort to control the violence that had come to characterize nightlife in Lawrence. The rollback lasted several months and was not extended.