City Hall in turmoil
This has been a week of victories and disappointments wherever we look. At the local level, Lawrence City Hall is rumbling about recent developments in the Personnel Department with the three employees being put on administrative leave while they investigate certain information published in Rumbo a couple of weeks ago. While it is ongoing, next week I will bring you the results, if any.
The Personnel Director Frank Bonet will be leaving to a similar position in Chelsea, fulfilling his desire to be a candidate for the city council at-large.
City rules won’t allow city employees to run for office and now he will continue taking an active part in the city’s affairs, although in a different capacity where he believes he can accomplish more.
Would Hispanic Week ever learn?
For the past 42 years, Lawrence has been celebrating Hispanic Week and it should be a symbol of pride that this organization can bring together all nationalities under one banner: Together in Harmony.
There have been some years better than others but controversy seems to be apparent in most years. Doubts and rumors of wrongdoings prevail and in many cases have been proven to be correct.
One year, a board member went back home with ($11,000) the cash collected from the food booths. His mother promised to make good on that if charges were not pressed but soon, everything was forgotten.
The rental of these booths was always problematic because some people insisted on paying at the end of the festival for the proceeds. When the board instituted payments through checks and not accepting cash, another problem arose trying to collect those returned by the banks.
For many years we heard about the monies collected from the beer truck went into a brown paper bag that never made it to the bank. Or the time when someone admitted that the hundreds of dollars collected from one of the beauty pageants, were spent on personal stuff and never repaid to the organization.
Occasionally, Hispanic Week had to be rescued by some community leader willing to risk his or her reputation to cover the deficit left from the previous year.
The worst-case scenario was probably when Nunzio DiMarca took the helm of the organization for two years with over $60,000 in debt being carried for a few years.
Nunzio, an Italian by birth, was creative, and having lived all his life in Lawrence, he had contacts in many industries and organizations. He made sure to approach everyone he knew asking for support for Hispanic Week and he got it. By the end of his two-year term, he had paid all debts and left them in the black. Also, as time went by, the systems implemented and contacts that were key contributors were neglected causing great losses to the fundraising efforts.
There was always disarray and turmoil among board members, most often in violation of rules. In recent years, Jose Arnaldo Davila was president and tried to bring some order with a firm hand; while he had a level of success, there were others who had no idea of how to within the protocols of a Board of Directors or Robert’s Rules of Order.
Last year, the pandemic put a halt on all the local celebrations and Hispanic Week was canceled as well. Some of the planning had already begun for the 2020 celebration and it was agreed that everything would be moved to 2021.
That lack of discipline caused the sudden resignation of its president and some of the remaining members appointed a new president, treasurer, and secretary over the objections of others. Then, it was time for revenge; some of those members were not allowed to vote because the new president said they were not active members. They claimed that statement was not to be true because they had not missed three consecutive meetings as the rules state.
Accusations went back and forth and they ended up in court with requests for restraining orders which were eventually not granted.
Still suffering the COVID-19 effects this year, the celebration probably should have been postponed in order to plan it better. Most of the fundraising events that are scheduled throughout the year did not take place but that was not their only failure.
Instead of allowing for continuity of the organization by respecting the plans that had been agreed to for 2021, Leti Valdez who had been selected as Grand Marshall for 2021 was changed. Joan Peña was to be the guest speaker and the ad book was going to be dedicated to Kelsey Duran, both were changed.
The ad book is a good source of revenue to offset the expenses connected with Hispanic Week and it has always been the source of criticisms. This year it was the worst ever!
They may say it was because it was prepared in a rush but it was anger and revenge the clear motivator. The page honoring past presidents omitted those they dislike. Jose Arnaldo Davila was president twice, before Zoila Disla and again after her, yet his picture was not posted.
The harmony may be gone but they should not forget that board members come and go – it is organizations that endure.