Corruption in Lawrence: Pay-for-Play and other things By Dalia Diaz

Corruption in Lawrence: Pay-for-Play and other things
By Dalia Diaz

In a series of official complaints to several enforcement agencies of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Rumbo has been writing in regards to each of those complaints to our readers. With access to each of those complaints from a recent whistleblower, Rumbo has provided its readers with access to the corruption of this current administration. In this edition of From My Corner, I will write of some pay-to-play schemes that have occurred and been reported.

Let’s first update you, the reader on last week’s story. As you know, last week, Rumbo wrote in regards to the City Management Information Systems department under the Chief Administrative & Financial Officer of the City of Lawrence. Last week’s story exposed Mr. Luis Santiago’s unethical performance in several ways through several official complaints. Sources have come forward to inform Rumbo that IT Director Luis Santiago also violated the Commonwealth laws by providing direct services to Acting Mayor Kendrys Vasquez at the mayor’s house by installing a state-of-the-art security system. As you know, if the investigation finds culpability in this story, both the Mayor and the IT Director will be charged. Indictments could be coming in 2021.

Additionally, we will also inform our readers that the press release that was sent by Chief of Staff Juan Jaramillo, informing the public, and the press that Interim Mayor Kendrys Vasquez was absent from duty due to illness and spent a few days at a hospital in Boston. We have now learned that the press release was false. It was a lie to cover up the fact that Interim Mayor Kendrys Vasquez was in the Dominican Republic for the second time in August. He intended to oversee and coordinate the absentee voting of the Dominicans who also, and could, lay residency in Lawrence.

Since the departure of the overseer in late 2019, the checks and balances that were otherwise available for the city of Lawrence, are no longer present, and therefore allows for abuses identified as corruption in the city government.

In recent official complaints to investigatory and enforcement agencies of the Commonwealth, it was reported that Interim Mayor Kendrys Vasquez’s administration is utilizing their elected, and appointed position with several businesses and individuals as a pay-for-play scheme. One such identifying issue is that a vendor contract for a landscaping company was terminated. Supposedly, the reasons for terminating the said contract were made up of false reasons. The termination led to awarding a contract to another company in a pay-for-play scheme.

In June 2021, the city terminated the contract of Belko Landscaping with untruthful reasons that made it seem that the city was not satisfied that Belko Landscaping was accomplishing the required services as outlined in the agreement. There was no complaint at all whatsoever. Rumbo has verified this with the individuals overseeing the company’s service.

DPW Director Franklin Miguel created pretenses of complaints to have a reason for terminating such a landscaping contract with Belko. Afterward, the DPW Director requested to have a bidding service advertised and began to receive company bids.

Two weeks before awarding the bid, immediately after the City opened the bids, a company by the name of Cemetery Services, Inc (CSI, Inc), and most of its owners, officers, and silent partners, all donated each $1,000 to the campaign of Kendrys Vasquez. The company and its officers include Mr. Joseph Viel, a former city Parks & Streets Supervisor of the City of Lawrence Department of Public Works.

Mr. Viel, and his immediate family and parents, each donated $1,000 as well as other partners of the company. Two weeks after the donations, CSI, Inc was awarded a three-year $290,000 contract for parks maintenance. Mr. Viel became a city vendor as soon as he knew that Mayor Dan Rivera was on his way out as Mayor (December 2020), and just in time to pay to play paying into campaign donations to get favors from the interim and corrupt administration.

Weeks before the City’s Building Commissioner position was posted, former employee and building commissioner, Peter Blanchette, frequented Lawrence City Hall with Chief of Staff Juan Jaramillo. Mr. Blanchette went on to say that he was returning to his old job (Building Commissioner), which he was discharged from by former Mayor Rivera which by the way the City spent a lot of money successfully defending the case in court.

Two weeks later the position was posted and open to accept applications from any candidates. Two weeks prior, Mrs. Blanchette had contributed $500 to the campaign of Kendrys Vasquez. This is a pay-for-play scene, and the favors that will be asked of the Building Commissioner includes allowing building violations of people who have donated to Kendrys Vasquez’s campaign to remain and not be fined or made to change their building design. In an inconsistent department, the Interim Mayor has asked all staff to cool it on enforcing laws (“give people more breaks”). This statement has also been verified by Rumbo.

Another pay to play occurred upon hiring an individual, with a criminal background of felonies and incarceration, to a position that will be required to visit residents’ homes. The liability that the city has taken is beyond what the residents of this city do not deserve. The individual employee belongs to the same church as Mr. Vasquez and Mayor Vasquez’s mother. The position this individual was hired into, is paid for by grants from the federal government. Rumbo found that an employee was incarcerated for several years and is currently working in the Community Development Department. This individual has also donated to Interim Mayor Vasquez’s campaign in the very same pay-for-play scheme.

A second individual was hired with a criminal background, and immediately when allowed to work, submitted contributions to the campaign of Kendrys Vasquez. Pay for play scheme and each of these individuals was recommended by members of the Kendrys Vasquez campaign team, including by DPW Director Franklin Miguel.

Andrys Castillo, the owner of AJ Trucking, 60 Island St., donated $1000 to the Vasquez campaign. Andrys Castillo as a city vendor (vendor #33173) who directly works with DPW Joel Chalas, is also a pay-for-play scheme.

The pay-for-play scheme occurring, as part of this year’s election cycle, is as bad as have ever been seen in Lawrence politics, and came just in time for elections corruptions immediately after the overseer departed. The politics as played in the Dominican Republic has arrived and is fiercely corrupting those in power.

In next week’s edition, I will report on the supposed scheme that was one of the first expose of this administration’s corruptions and will show that this administration was to deceive people by hiring permanent employees for the Department of Public Works, without budget or council approval, and lay them off immediately right after the elections.

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