From My Corner: May 1, 2024

Lawrence hiring practices

Last Tuesday, the Personnel Committee of the City Council met and the only item on the agenda was the appointment of Carlos Matos as Director of Planning and Development.  It was supposed to be a “done deal” before sending it to the full council for approval.

He was supported by Ramón Quezada and Octavien Spanner. 

District A Councilor Fidelina Santiago tried asking a few questions, but she had a difficult time reading from the papers while pressing the microphone button at the same time.  Her English proficiency was so poor that I had a hard time understanding what she was saying and had to listen to the recording a few times.

Mr. Spanner was asked if this position was advertised publicly, which he said it was, and if there were other qualified candidates but he responded that “there was not one candidate that matched Mr. Matos.”

He didn’t recall if Mr. Matos started working in an Acting capacity in February or March.  All they had to do was ask Carlos who was present, but they did not.  It was obvious that Chair Stephany Infante was not pleased with what she was hearing so she turned it to Councilor Wendy Luzón.

Ms. Luzón questioned why Matos’ resume shows only three references: José Javier, Octavien Spanner, and Mayor Brian DePeña and none from previous employers, casting doubt on his credentials.

She claimed that his resume was incomplete and that the city didn’t follow the proper process while raising her voice to an unnecessary level.

Wendy chastises Carlos while reviewing his resume because, after all, she knows how to spot a fake when she sees one.  For years, she worked for the city pretending to have a college degree when all she had was a high school diploma.  Now that she has a bit of authority, she doesn’t want anyone pulling the same things she did.

She only confessed to what she had done while facing the possibility of going to jail for lying under oath, during a deposition.

She questioned his credentials, and the dates on his resume and kept going back and forth through the pages looking for more.  Anyone watching that meeting would not want to submit him or herself to such unjustified abuse and mistrust.

They approved sending it to the council and immediately they had the Ordinance Committee meeting.  Attorney Tim Houten asked them to approve the job description for Mr. Matos with some changes.

Chair Marc Laplante then told him that this requires a public hearing.  It is now a question of how soon that new job description can be finalized so that Mr. Matos can be appointed permanently.

The Carlos Matos case is a good example of doing everything in reverse.  He has been there for several weeks and now the city attorney has discovered that the council must update this job description because there have been some changes made to the old version.  Whenever any changes are made to a job description, it calls for a public hearing to be held and that process will take a while.  Meantime, he’s not getting paid.

This episode was just to show you how ill-conceived are things in Lawrence.  Seems they are always working backward.  They place individuals in jobs, then advertise them and claim there is no one else who is qualified.

Recently, the city sent a paid ad listing 14 job openings and Rumbo refused to publish it.  Most of those positions had an owner already and we didn’t want to be part of that deception. 

It’s been a long time, since the Frank Bonet days, that we have not had a decent Personnel Department in the city.  Someone who knows the laws and follows procedures with the appropriate authority.


LRA meeting of April 24

This was a meeting not to be missed because they had a huge agenda and several of those items interested me.  I still don’t understand much about the function of the Lawrence Redevelopment Authority (LRA) because it is a very complex organization, but I will bring you details of those I manage to comprehend.

The first item discussed was the Pacific Mills renovations.  This is the building owned by Brady-Sullivan at 300 Canal St. but the LRA owns the hydro plant and it is costing them in the electric bill and maintenance.  Now, they want to renovate an area and convert it into 9’ x 15’ storage spaces they can rent to the tenants.

But there were serious discussions like Pemberton Park and the many trucks parking there all the time when that park is going to see big renovations. At this point, Councilor at-Large Ana Levy was in attendance and had done her homework by asking the mayor how much those trucks pay for parking.  He told her that some don’t pay anything at all, but the city collects $5,050 each month from them.  DPW will oversee that they get charged.

It was encouraging to hear that some of the plans include turning it into a concerned venue although there’s no parking in that area.  Perhaps the concern venue could be downtown.  Let’s see what they can come up with.

Since Lawrence is an MBTA community according to the new State law requiring building more housing in these communities, the thought of constructing apartments along Merrimack St. was mentioned.

The LRA meetings seem to run without structure or rules, and they will be adopting a public participation period like the 2.5 minutes used in the city council meetings.

Remember how I fought the building of a television studio at 255 Essex St.?  Well, they will continue with those plans although it will be a public space for LRA meetings training, and presentations.  Meanwhile, the mayor is working with the attorney on the television studio subject, and I heard that it’s being set up at the Public Library.  

Something that took me by surprise was the news that the Tombarello site and Merrimack Paper cannot be developed by the city and must be sold.  There was no explanation as to who made the change or the reason.  They just said they will be cleaned up by the State.  Then I thought that Tombarello would be a good place to move the DPW garage and offices that are in the middle of the city (the City Yard) into a residential area.

The LRA can develop municipal properties, but they need alternate sources of financing.  Bonds will have to be undersigned by the city and they can also apply for Federal tax credits.

Since the LRA facilitates the projects to developers for the city, Octavien Spanner said that the first city contacted was Cambridge for information on the last 50 years of progress.  He will also check with Lowell and Haverhill.

On April 15, I wrote in this column that Andrea McCann had been hired because Mr. Spanner had recommended her “because he has seen her raise funds and has seen her work on several successful fundraisings.”  On this night, they wanted to know about her accomplishments since last August and Mr. Spanner was quick to correct Sara Pérez when she referred to her as Director of Development by saying that the correct title is Finance Director.

There was a big difference between the reason for which he brought her here (see above) and this new title.  But the best part was the couple of minutes she read from her list of “accomplishments”.

She began and ended her brief diatribe referring to her position as Development Director, (I guess no one told her that her title had been changed) and spilled out a bunch of meetings with potential developers, collaborated with Carras Investment Group, Stantec, TEC, etc., got involved in public relations and communications and lots of meetings with politicians.  She mentioned meeting with José Javier, Capital Improvement Plan project manager for the city and local business owners.  There were subjects with no specific information about what was done or achieved.

Andrea spent more time talking about her roots because she was born and raised here.  Her sister looked to buy a house here for two years and ended up moving to Haverhill.  Who cares, Andrea?

Somehow, I believe that this agenda was inspired by my column of April 15 because many of the things I mentioned were discussed that night.  Like RFPs for a website designer and a public relations firm.  

Back to my April 15 piece, do you remember that I wrote this? 

“Octavien proposed paying $71,850 to Karyn Martin of Golden Thread Agency LLC, 26 Scenic View Drive, Pelham, NH, 03076.  Her proposal was dated August 14, 2023.”  

The board discussed it last summer and they know that he had been negotiating with this company.

The same when they decided on the need for a public relations agency.  Again, I wrote at that time the following:

“There’s also another contract to DHARMA Consulting, an agency created on January 11, 2023, located at 60 Island St., #209W by Hem H. Vora.  They sent a contract to the LRA on August 14, 2023, to provide ‘Consulting services to the LRA’ beginning January 1, 2024, at $6,500 each month.”

What bothers me the most is that this board is gullible.  They vote “yes” without analyzing what they are voting for and forget what has been discussed in the past.

Before adjourning the meeting, the Chair Eric Walker had to bring up again the issue of the White Fund Paintings.  Octavien will set up a meeting with Attorney Peter Caruso for himself and Mr. Walker. 

Why is that an issue for the LRA to handle?


Illegal operation of recreational vehicles

There’s an article on page 2 from the Lawrence Police Department about a raid conducted in cooperation with several police departments that I recommend everyone reads.  That was the result of a city ordinance put forth by Councilor at-Large Ana Levy a couple of years ago adding Recreational Vehicles.

Registered and unregistered “recreational motorized vehicles,” capable of being propelled either by gasoline, electric/battery, or other fuel type, including those commonly referred to as snow mobiles, all-terrain vehicles, mini-bikes, mopeds, dirt bikes/scooters, go-carts, motorized skateboards, or other like vehicles, shall not be operated on any property, private or public, without the expressed consent of the owner or overseer of said property. Evidence of written permission shall be in the possession of the operator of said vehicles and shall be presented upon demand of any police officer or other law enforcement officer. 

Be it ordained by the City Council of the City of Lawrence that the Revised Ordinances of the City of Lawrence are hereby further amended by adding the following subparagraph to Section 10.45.010 of the Municipal Code (Recreational vehicles):

  • 10.45.010 Recreational Vehicles –Registered and unregistered


(a) Definitions. For the purpose of this ordinance, the phrase “recreational vehicle” shall have the following meaning (except in those instances where the context clearly indicates a different meaning): 

any wheeled device used to carry persons or property which is powered by any means other than muscular power alone and which is designed or modified for use over unimproved terrain for recreation or pleasure including, but not limited to, all-terrain vehicles, off-highway motorcycles, dirt bikes, and recreation utility vehicles. 

(b) Recreational vehicle registration. Pursuant to G.L. c. 90B, § 22, no recreational vehicle, as defined by G.L. c. 90B, § 20, may be operated unless it is registered with the Boat, Recreation Vehicle & Snowmobile Registration Bureau of the Massachusetts Environmental State Police and a valid registration number is displayed on the vehicle. 


Anyone interested in reading about this ordinance could ask the City Clerk Eileen O’Connor Bernal at City Hall or contact me by telephone or email and I will send you a copy.

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