It’s a telling sign of the political disarray in Lawrence that something as simple as appointing members to the Licensing Board has been mired in months of controversy.
The three-member board tasked with issuing liquor licenses — and also regulating other businesses including car dealerships, convenience stores, boarding houses and any business that sells milk — has been in turmoil for more than a year. Mayor William Lantigua’s efforts to stack the board with members favorable to his political interests have turned what should be a simple appointment process into a months-long carnival of confusion.
It began in January 2012 when former board member Tom Murphy resigned. Lantigua tried to replace Murphy with high school administrator Alfonso Garcia. But the City Council rejected that request because of the conflict Garcia might face drawing a city paycheck while also serving on a board that makes city policy.
Lantigua made little further effort to fill the vacancy and the board operated with two members until Chairman Rick Fielding died in September. With just one remaining member — Lantigua’s ex-wife Mayra Lantigua — the Licensing Board was unable to act.
Mayor Lantigua tried again to place Garcia on the board, this time as an emergency appointment without council approval. City Attorney Charles Boddy issued an opinion that such a move was not permitted under emergency appointment provisions.
Lantigua then nominated Luis Martinez and Pedro Torres. Responding to an inquiry from Councilor Marc Laplante, Boddy rejected them as well because they did not meet the partisan qualifications for serving. State law requires that licensing boards have at least one Republican and one Democrat.
Finally, in November, Lantigua succeeded in appointing Ronald Martin, a retired IRS employee who resigned from the Board of Registrars after 14 years to take the Licensing Board seat, and Leocadio Paulino, a building contractor.