EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

September 2, 2013

Lantigua's board nominees come before City Council

By Keith Eddings

---- — LAWRENCE — After a restive City Council committee sidetracked or rejected nine of mayor William Lantigua’s recent picks for city boards and commissions, the full council on Tuesday will consider the 14 nominees who withstood the committee’s review.

In all, the council’s Personnel Committee delayed action on eight of Lantigua’s picks for the boards and commissions and rejected one — Vinicio Frometa, Lantigua’s City Hall receptionist, whom Lantigua nominated for the Airport Commission.

Lantigua withdrew three nominees for the Zoning Board of Appeals and another for the Board of Registrars even before they reached the Personnel Committee last week, saying he made the nominations in error. At least one of the nominees whose name was withdrawn by the mayor attended the Personnel Committee meeting, expecting to be interviewed.

Lantigua sent the 27 nominations to the council two weeks ago in a sudden push to restock 11 boards and commissions that have been hobbled by vacancies and are often unable to round up the quorum needed to meet. In all, 55 seats on the agencies are vacant or are filled by members who are continuing to serve after their terms have expired, which has helped the agencies maintain their quorums while waiting for Lantigua to act.

The Conservation Commission canceled a meeting earlier this month after a resignation left it with just two members. The Planning Board is down to three members, shy of the four needed to consider special permits and carry out other core functions. Last year, the membership on the Licensing Board dropped to one (Mayra Lantigua, the mayor’s former wife, who is now acting chairwoman of the board).

Lantigua has since filled the two empty seats on the Licensing Board. Last week, he made at least three appointments to the Conservation Commission, which do not require the council’s review. He did not act to reappoint or replace commission chairman Tennis Lilly, who continues to serve a term that has expired.

Lantigua last week also made three nominations to the Planning Board, but it is unclear whether one would take the seat held by Norman Nimmo, the board’s chairman, who also is serving an expired term. Nimmo is the city’s former recycling coordinator, whom Lantigua fired shortly after taking office in 2010.

Nimmo said Friday he asked Lantigua to reappoint him to the Planning Board two years ago, but said Lantigua did not respond.

“I’ve put forward candidates, all of which have been ignored, not even responded to,” Nimmo said about his efforts to encourage Lantigua to fill the empty Planning Board seats for the last few years.

Lantigua did not return a phone call Friday.

The Personnel Committee last week tabled the eight Lantigua nominees because members said Lantigua was late in forwarding their applications to the committee. One nominee who will have to wait is Lydia Bonilla, wife of Deputy Police Chief Melix Bonilla, who has been on paid leave from his $140,000 job since he was indicted on corruption charges a year ago. She was nominated to the Housing Authority.

Frometa, the receptionist for Lantigua who was nominated for the Airport Commission, was rejected in a 3-1 vote after Councilor Daniel Rivera objected that city employees should not serve on local boards and commissions because of the conflict he said it poses when they vote on city policies while also working for the mayor.

“In a community of 75,000 people, you should be able to get other people to help out,” said Rivera, who is one of five candidates challenging Lantigua in the Sept. 17 preliminary election for mayor. “And you have to send down qualified people. Like everything else, they make a simple process difficult because they want to do it the way they want to do it and not have to follow the rules.”

The committee sent on at least three other city employees who Lantigua nominated, including Planning Department secretary Joanna Infante, who was nominated for the Cultural Council; Richard Rivera, a school safety officer, who was nominated for another term on the Zoning Board of Appeals; and Patrick Driscoll, president of the Lawrence firefighters union, who was nominated for another term on the Housing Authority.

Councilor Sandy Almonte, who chairs the Personnel Committee, did not return a phone call Friday.