Vowing to get his job back, Tom Sapienza retained legal services through Ellen Shimer-Brenes, a North Andover attorney. Her senior paralegal Taylor Dauksewicz attended yesterday’s arraignment. Outside the courtroom, she said Sapienza’s firing and Santiago’s hiring as a “temporary” employee follow a string of improper Lantigua employment practices.
He hires allies as “temporary workers” and then bypasses union and job posting rules and puts them on the payroll permanently, she said. This benefits Lantigua both “politically and personally,” she said.
She said her firm is drafting a race discrimination complaint on Tom Sapienza’s behalf to file with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination against Lantigua and the city of Lawrence.
In addition to Sapienza’s firing and Santiago’s hiring, Lantigua is also being criticized for leaving two friends and political supporters on the city payroll after they were indicted on felony criminal charges and suspended from work.
Deputy Chief Melix Bonilla, Lantigua’s campaign manager, was indicted on Sept. 11 on five criminal charges stemming from his alleged role in the illegal swap of 13 city vehicles. Bonilla, who earns $140,000 annually, is still being paid by the city although he hasn’t worked at the police department since the day he was indicted.
Officer PJ Lopez, who earns $62,000 annually, was indicted on federal charges on Sept. 26. He also remains on paid suspension after he was charged with making arrangements with a local tow company in exchange for a stream of benefits.
Police Chief John Romero has asked for both Bonilla and Lopez’s pay to be halted. Lantigua, the appointing authority, has refused to do so.
Lantigua and his administration remain the focus of an ongoing state and federal probe into bid rigging, suspicious out of country travel, illegal car swap and shipment of a trash truck, two ambulances and a school bus to the Dominican Republic.
Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter under the screenname EagleTribJill.