Lawrence city councilor slams Rivera

Blasts mayor's ‘stupid decision’ to battle schools landlord

LAWRENCE CITY COUNCILOR Modesto Maldonado came down hard on Mayor Daniel Rivera on Monday for squandering taxpayer dollars on a losing war with the former landlord of the school department headquarters.

Rivera and the landlord, Carmine DiAdamo, are trying to negotiate a legal settlement that would involve the city purchasing DiAdamo’s downtown building and moving the school department back in. Rivera had moved the school department out of DiAdamo’s building and into temporary space at the end of 2014, and won City Council approval to borrow $8 million to buy and fix up another downtown building that was expected to serve as school headquarters. When a jury ruled in February that Rivera had breached the city’s lease with DiAdamo and might be on the hook for $2 million in repairs, settlement talks began.

The City Council is expected to take up the matter at a hearing on April 5. The potential resolution was first reported by the Eagle-Tribune.

Maldonado said the whole affair will be costly for taxpayers. He said the city spent $500,000 buying and $400,000 developing designs for the new building it will no longer need. He said the city is also going to be on the hook for $450,000 it spent on consultants and expert witnesses as well as $500,000 in DiAdamo legal fees. The city will also have to buy the DiAdamo building, which is located just behind City Hall, and pay for repairs.

But city officials reportedly believe buying and fixing the former school department headquarters may be more cost-effective than paying for court-ordered repairs to the building and then walking away. Rivera and DiAdamo both declined comment.

Maldonado, a frequent critic of Rivera, called the mayor’s legal fight with DiAdamo a “stupid decision.” He was also critical of Sean Cronin, the state fiscal overseer for Lawrence, who gave his blessing to the purchase of a new school department headquarters even as litigation with DiAdamo was ongoing. Cronin could not be reached for comment.

“I blame the state. The state is as guilty as he is,” said Maldonado, referring to a series of state officials who he said have supported Rivera. “The no-nonsense mayor that is loved by the state is costing the taxpayer a lot of money.”

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Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

Maldonado, along with the rest of the City Council, voted 8-0 last May to back Rivera’s decision to float $8 million in bonds to buy a building downtown to house the school department. The councilors, as well as Cronin, the fiscal overseer, were swayed by a slide presentation indicating the city would save money in the long run by purchasing a new building for the school department. Maldonado said the City Council gave its approval to the bond issue because it didn’t have all the facts.

(Due to a reporting error, Modesto Maldonado was incorrectly identified as the City Council president in the original draft of this story. He no longer holds that position, having been replaced by Kendrys Vasquez in January.)