Gonzalez has a right to a fair trial. But he has no unconditional right to a job in which he is handed a gun and a badge and told to uphold the law.
Dwyer, the union lawyer, did make a good point when he asked why Gonzalez was terminated while two other police officers still have their jobs despite being indicted for serious crimes. Mayor William Lantigua, who alone holds the power to hire and fire police officers, has kept Deputy Chief Melix Bonilla and Officer P.J. Lopez on the payroll for months while they await trial.
Bonilla has collected his $140,000 per year pay while under indictment on five counts of extortion, fraud and conspiracy for his alleged involvement in a swap of city-owned vehicles with Lawrence car dealer Bernardo Pena, a Lantigua friend and campaign supporter.
Lopez is still being paid his $60,000 per year, despite being indicted in September on charges that he lied to a federal agent and made arrangements with a local tow company to have cars he ticketed towed by the company in exchange for a stream of benefits.
Dwyer said he finds it “disconcerting” that Gonzalez was fired while Bonilla and Lopez have been suspended with pay. So do we.
After several months of prodding, Lantigua did the right thing in firing Gonzalez. We’re still waiting for him to do the same with Bonilla and Lopez.