It could be Friday before we find out what's happening to the effort to recall Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua. The city's Board of Registrars met Tuesday night to begin the certification process on a petition to remove Lantigua from office. The Elections Division has to check signatures against names on the city's voter rolls, but the Board said, after Tuesday night's meeting, that it could present its findings on Friday.
WBUR's Bianca Vazquez Toness covered the meeting to bring us up to speed on the latest developments.
Deborah Becker: First, what happened at the meeting Tuesday night? I understand Lantigua turned up.
Bianca Vazquez Toness: He did, in a very dramatic fashion. Everyone was surprised. He came in and didn't say anything, and he handed sealed envelopes to everyone on the Board of Registrars and the city clerk.
What was in the envelopes?
I didn't see the letter, but it's been reported in the Eagle Tribune that he made a number of requests that the state, the city attorney and the clerk verify every single signature on the petition.
And the Election Division presented their progress — they're 45 percent done, and so far 1,800 of these signatures are good, and they need some 5,200 signatures. So at this rate it's pretty iffy.
So what happens from here? Will they be able to get the remainder of those signatures certified by Friday?
They say that they are on track to do it by Thursday, and that it will be presented publicly on Friday. The Board may or may not certify the signatures then, but whenever they certify them, then Lantigua or the other side have two days to contest the findings.
How else is Lantigua responding?
He's showing quite a bit of confidence, as is his way. He says he's doing a good job in the city — the budget is balanced, and he didn't have to lay anyone off this year:
I'm just going about doing my work as best as I can, you know, serving the people in the great City of Lawrence. And you know God is on my side, and the people that care about moving the city forward. When everything is said and done, I'm gonna still be here as the mayor, with a stronger mandate from the great City of Lawrence.
How is this dispute affecting business at City Hall?
It's a distraction. City officials tell me that they're just trying to keep their heads down, trying very hard not to get involved. And they're frustrated because they don't think this recall group is going to get either too few signatures — to make it seem like a resounding victory for Lantigua — or enough to make it over the top, to make it look like a clear rebuke of him. So they worry that this is going to keep going on and on.
Here's Edwin Rodriguez, the man who started this recall effort:
If we lose this one, there is a chance for another one. We will keep on fighting. We have the cry of over 5,500 people telling the mayor, 'things have to change, you have to be different.' Otherwise, if he doesn't do that, he's not listening to the people. He will be defeated.
Why do they think the mayor needs to be so different, how did it get to this point?
There are a lot of things going on. For one thing, there were a lot of tough budget cuts last year because the city was in such debt, owing to the previous administration. But most people agree that anyone would have had to make these cuts. But still, this group is harping on this issue, and says that Lantigua doesn't care about public safety because he cut so many police and firefighters.
Secondly, the way that Lantigua has handled these issues has really ticked people off. He insulted firemen, for instance, during public safety battles in cutting firefighters.
And lastly, it's been reported that a federal grand jury is investigating Lantigua for allegedly using his office for personal gain.
This program aired on August 10, 2011.