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Lantigua resigns as state representative

Vows to do his best as Lawrence mayor

Mayor William Lantigua Mayor William Lantigua (Mary Schwalm for The Boston Globe)
By Andrea Estes and Travis Andersen
Globe Staff / February 13, 2010

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LAWRENCE - Changing course after a rising tide of criticism, Mayor William Lantigua resigned yesterday from his second job as a state lawmaker.

“In the past few days . . . 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 wrote in a resignation letter to House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo.

“Today I submit my resignation as state representative so that I may continue to serve the people of Lawrence to the best of my ability. At this time, ‘my best’ means advocating from Lawrence as mayor of Lawrence,’’ he said.

His resignation was effective yesterday when it was filed with the clerk’s office, DeLeo spokesman Seth Gitell said. A special election has to be held to fill his seat, but no date has been set, Gitell said.

Lantigua met with DeLeo yesterday to discuss his plans. At a press confer ence last evening at Lawrence City Hall attended by about 60 supporters, Lantigua said he made his decision after talking with his mother, wife, and the people of Lawrence.

“The community made that call,’’ he said.

Lantigua was elected in November and took office early last month. Since then, he has held both the mayor’s job, which pays $100,000 a year, and the lawmaker’s job, from which he earns about $70,000. He said Wednesday that the people of Lawrence had elected him to both, they were comfortable with him, and if he resigned from his State House job, he would be caving into outside interests.

Asked by a reporter at the press conference if he stepped down in part to quell criticism for drawing two taxpayer-funded salaries in a down economy, Lantigua said, “Not at all.’’

Gitell said in a statement: “Speaker DeLeo respects the decision Mayor Lantigua has made for himself and for his constituents. He thanks him for his service to the House of Representatives and advocacy on behalf of the people of Lawrence. He looks forward to working with him in the future.’’

Governor Deval Patrick said he appreciated “Mayor Lantigua’s decision to focus all his energies on City Hall and on getting Lawrence back on its feet.’’

The issue of Lantigua’s two jobs recently drew attention because of the city’s fiscal troubles. Lawrence faces a $24.5 million deficit this year and a shortfall estimated at nearly $15 million next year.

Lantigua stressed at the press conference that he inherited the deficit from the previous administration and chided reporters for downplaying that fact as the controversy swirled over his so-called double dipping.

“I think the media has been very, very irresponsible,’’ he said.

Still, Lantigua’s insistence on keeping two jobs appears to have had an impact on the city’s fiscal mobility.

Beacon Hill leaders are considering a measure to allow the city to borrow up to $35 million over the next two years from private investors.

Action on the bailout, slated for earlier this week, was postponed after lawmakers were angered because Lantigua did not appear at a hearing on the measure. He explained later that his appearance may have represented a conflict, as mayor seeking a bailout and a lawmaker considering whether to approve the measure. “I couldn’t be judge and jury at the same time,’’ he said. “They know that.’’

Because of the city’s fiscal woes, some lawmakers threatened to immediately install a five-member control board, overseen by state officials.

Lantigua said last night that he would have a seat on the control board if it is installed, vowing to fight for the city both in that capacity and as mayor.

Last night, Lantigua denied cutting a deal with Beacon Hill leaders to push the bailout through if he left his State House post.

He thanked Beacon Hill leaders past and present for their advice during his tenure as a lawmaker, including former House speakers Thomas Finneran and Salvatore DiMasi, whose legacies have been marred by legal troubles.

Dan Rivera, a Lawrence city councilor, said after the press conference that Lantigua made the right decision to help the city move past the controversy.

“When confronted with a problem, he worked to fix it,’’ Rivera said.

But resident Dalia Diaz, who attended the news conference, lamented Lantigua’s resignation. “It hurts,’’ she said. “It hurts, but we had to put an end to the controversy.’’

Lantigua said repeatedly last night that he ended the rancor on his terms only.

“I did it my way,’’ he said.

Martin Finucane of the Globe staff contributed to this report.