Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua isn’t the first American mayor to run into trouble with shipments of city-owned vehicles to the Dominican Republic.
The Immigrant City controversy, involving promises of a school bus, an ambulance, and a garbage truck to a small Dominican town, resonated with Washington Post local politics and government reporter Mike DeBonis, who recalled the District of Columbia’s own “fishy fire truck” affair.
In 2009, DC Mayor Adrian Fenty failed to keep tabs on a plan send a fire truck and an ambulance to Sosúa, a town on the northern coast of the Dominican Republic. The shipment broke a number of District procurement and personnel rules. The city’s attorney general learned about the plan through a press report and ordered that the vehicles be returned to the city. The fire truck and the ambulance were sent back to the District as soon as they arrived in the country.
Some members of Fenty’s administration had vacationed in the seaside town, but there was no other connection between the DC mayor and the community.
The DC Inspector General recommended administrative sanctions for the several city employees involved in the shipments. The US District Attorney’s office also investigated, but did not turn up any major-league wrongdoing, so Fenty himself never faced any criminal prosecution. He lost his re-election bid last year.
In the case of the Lawrence shipments, only the garbage truck made it to the Caribbean country. The trash truck has pride of place in the town of Tenares, the hometown of the mayor’s girlfriend.
DeBonis observes that Lantigua “seems to be in a little bit more trouble.”
“For one, he is accused of not only sending surplus city property, but also leaning on city contractors to send vehicles…to…Tenares, which is the ancestral home of many Lawrence residents. This would seem to be using his office to build political goodwill on his own behalf, which could run afoul of Massachusetts state law.”
Lantigua’s troubles continue. The former general manager of Lawrence’s trash-hauling company tells the Eagle-Tribune he is a cooperating witness in a federal grand jury probe of the mayor. The grand jury is investigating Lantigua’s involvement with the vehicle shipments, along with a laundry list of other matters.
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