“Mayor Pothole” is an American political icon, the politician who wins electoral support by making certain the streets are in good repair and swept clean.
Done properly and within the bounds of lawful municipal procedure, there’s nothing wrong with it. In fact, taking care of the little details such as filling potholes and sweeping streets make our cities more livable.
But former Lawrence mayor William Lantigua in his bid to win re-election last year went far beyond the bounds of proper municipal procedure in one of the more blatant attempts to buy voter support with public money we’ve seen.
As reporter Keith Eddings found, dozens of streets in Lawrence were repaved with fresh coats of asphalt during Lantigua’s four years in office. But the work intensified dramatically last summer in the run-up to the September preliminary election in which the incumbent mayor faced five challengers.
In the 15 days from July 22 to Aug. 6, the bills from one paving company approached $400,000. But Highway Rehabilitation Corp. of New York had a contract with the city to perform just $84,979 worth of repaving.
The rest of the work was done under the direct order of Lantigua, circumventing normal bidding and contract requirements, city officials said.
The bill might have gone higher still had not an alert city employee noticed the $294,444 overrun and ordered a halt to the work.
“This email shall serve as notice that you are to cease any and all work in Lawrence immediately,” Purchasing Agent Rita Brousseau told David Capelle, Highway Rehab’s marketing officer, in an email. “No authorization was given to your company to perform any additional work, therefore, the city will not pay you for such.”
Indeed, Mayor Daniel Rivera, who defeated Lantigua in the November general election, says the city will not pay the bill for the paving work done in excess of what was authorized in the contract.