LAWRENCE – The girlfriend of former Mayor William Lantigua filed a federal lawsuit this week in an effort to get back on the city payroll, alleging that the city's new mayor fired her because of her “political support and personal relationship” with Lantigua.
Lorenza Ortega was a clerk secretary in the city's water and personnel departments for nine years, until Daniel Rivera fired her and several other city employees the day after taking office on Jan. 3.
In a suit filed in federal District Court in Boston, she alleges her dismissal violated her rights to “freedom of expression, association and belief under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.”
The five-page suit casts new doubt on Lantigua's claim a year or two ago that he had married Ortega, because it refers only to the couple's “longstanding, publicly acknowledged personal relationship with former Mayor Lantigua.” Lantigua claimed they married in a single interview in August 2012, but has since refused to describe the relationship and has never publicly referred to her as his wife.
Ortega's claim also notes the two share a home, which is Ortega's condo on Boxford Street.
The suit also notes the work Ortega did for her boyfriend's failed re-election campaign last year, which it says included “holding signs, distributing bumper stickers, making phone calls and coordinating the decorations and food for campaign events.”
It does not note that she also served as treasurer of Lantigua's campaign organization, in violation of a state law prohibiting public employees from soliciting or receiving contributions for political candidates. Attorney General Martha Coakley has sued Lantigua over the election law violation, along with several other alleged violations.
Ortega claims in her suit that Personnel Director Frank Bonet, her former boss, told her Rivera was firing her because she had a conflict of interest as a city employee, but does not describe the alleged conflict.
The suit seeks her reinstatement to a city job, the salary she lost since her firing, interest and legal fees.
Her lawyer is Mark Esposito, whose Burlington law firm represents Lawrence's police union.
Rivera declined to comment on Ortega's suit. A message left on Lantigua's cell phone asking for an interview with Ortega was not returned.
Lantigua's defeat cost the couple $150,000. Lantigua earned $100,000; Ortega earned $50,000. Neither has returned to work, but Lantigua is running against state Rep. Marcos Devers for the 16th Statehouse seat Lantigua held until becoming mayor in 2010.
The action is at least the second against the city by an employee Rivera fired. Former Comptroller David Camasso is asking the City Council to overturn his dismissal.
Rivera also removed Lantigua's former wife, Mayra Lantigua, from the city's Licensing Board, which she chaired.