Support the news
The city of Lawrence is teetering on bankruptcy and looking for help from the state to avoid financial ruin. So it was surprising when the mayor of Lawrence, William Lantigua, this week skipped a hearing on a rescue plan for his city.
The thing is, Lantigua is also a state representative. And although it's not illegal or unprecedented for someone to hold two elected offices, this reaction to this week's meeting makes it clear that doing both jobs is still complicated.
The meeting was Tuesday, on Beacon Hill, before the House Ways and Means Committee. On the recommendation of his advisers, Lantigua did not attend.
"As a member of the Ways and Means Committee," Lantigua explained Wednesday, sitting in his office at Lawrence City Hall, "how can you sit on one side of the bench, and listen to the testimony and then try to vote on it, and then sit on the other side and advocate? It's unethical."
But this is exactly the sort of conflict that his critics say make it a bad idea for him to hold both jobs.
"I just think there's an ethical question all the way around," said Lawrence City Councilor Roger Twomey, by phone. "I think he should give up his job as a representative."
But back in December, Lantigua thought it would be an advantage.
As mayor he was inheriting big financial problems from the previous administration, and he was thinking about how he could help shepherd in a financial rescue plan as a state lawmaker.
Lantigua worried that a newly elected representative wouldn't be able to advocate for the city.
"Does that person have the same relationship with the governor, with the speaker, with the Senate president, with the treasurer?" Lantigua asked in a December interview in his then-district office in downtown Lawrence. "The answer is no."
But now that his city is going through the process of asking the state for help, calls are mounting for Lantigua to quit his State House job. Even the governor says Lantigua should focus on Lawrence, and give up his seat on Beacon Hill.
But Lantigua is digging in.
"The people of Lawrence are telling me daily, to hold on, not to resign," Lantigua said. "Specifically, not to resign under pressure from people who don't know our community. Who don't know our capacity to work hard and make good things happen."
Lantigua's friend, Frank Moran, is president of the Lawrence City Council. He says Lantigua is handling both jobs well so far. But he says that might not matter. The perception that Lantigua is doing something wrong by keeping both jobs is starting to jeopardize the city's financial future.
"It definitely has become a distraction," Moran said. "Everybody has an opinion about whether he should have two positions, two jobs. Even though the law says that he can do both jobs, I think Willy will do the right thing in the next month or so and he'll realize that maybe he really needs to step down out of one of those positions."
Lantigua may not have that much time. The city needs state help fast to avoid going into bankruptcy.
This program aired on February 11, 2010.
Support the news