BOSTON — Embattled Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua resigned his seat in the Massachusetts House of Representatives on Friday amid growing pressure from fellow lawmakers who questioned whether he could serve in both positions at once.
In a letter to House Speaker Robert DeLeo late Friday (PDF), the Lawrence Democrat said he could no longer continue in the House given the demands of the mayor’s office.
DeLeo issued a statement thanking Lantigua for the decision. Lantigua also planned a 6 p.m. announcement in Lawrence.
Pressure had mounted on Lantigua to resign as lawmakers weighed a bill that would allow Lawrence to borrow up to $35 million to balance its 2010 and 2011 budgets.
The bill also would require a state-appointed overseer to monitor the city’s finances and recommend whether the state should appoint a finance control board with more extensive powers over the budget.
In the letter, Lantigua said at first he felt a responsibility to complete the term of office in the House, noting that he’d been elected mayor by the voters of Lawrence even though they knew he also had a House seat.
“People from near and far communicated to me how significant it is for me to serve my community and represent them here on a daily basis,” Lantigua wrote. “I applied for two jobs. I went through two interviews and on Election Day the selection committee, made up of the people of Lawrence, chose me to work for them.”
Lantigua’s outlook changed in recent weeks as fiscal pressures mounted on Lawrence, forcing the city to seek the help of the state – and forcing Lantigua to face skeptical colleagues in the House about whether he could do both jobs at the same time
Lantigua also became a lightning rod for critics who said he shouldn’t be collecting two public salaries and instead should devote himself full time to his job as mayor.
“In the past few days, however, it has become clear to me that I can no longer serve in the House of Representatives, advocating for the City of Lawrence, in the same manner to which I have grown accustomed over the years,” Lantigua added.
A spokesman for DeLeo issued a statement accepting the resignation.
“Speaker DeLeo respects the decision Mayor Lantigua has made for himself and for his constituents,” said DeLeo aide Seth Gitell. “He thanks him for his service to the House of Representatives and advocacy on behalf of the people of Lawrence.”
Gov. Deval Patrick, who had urged Lantigua to choose between the two offices, also praised the decision.
“This is about ensuring that the people of Lawrence have a chance to turn their city around,” Patrick said in a written statement.
Winning office in November as the state’s first popularly elected Latino mayor, Lantigua took over with fanfare and positive international press in this majority-Latino city of 71,000. But he has faced a backlash after laying off longtime city workers, some of whom did not support him for mayor.