Coakley sues Lantigua on campaign violations
Suit comes just before mayoral primary
WITH LESS THAN A MONTH TO GO before Lawrence’s crowded mayoral primary election, state officials on Tuesday sued Mayor William Lantigua, accusing him of accepting thousands of dollars in illegal contributions in 2009 and 2010.
Attorney General Martha Coakley and the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance allege in their lawsuit that in 2009 Lantigua or his campaign committee accepted more than $14,000 in possible illegal cash donations, while also failing to keep track of the 22 individual deposits. The mayor also allegedly did not disclose four possibly illegal contributions in the form of advertisements in Rumbo, a regional bilingual publication, and failed to account for about $20,000 in expenditures that year. In 2010, Lantigua also allegedly failed to report $5,000 in food and other items from a local events venue.
“Campaign finance laws ensure the integrity of the electoral system,” Coakley said in a statement. “These disclosures are important to let voters know where candidates’ contributions are coming from and to help them make informed decisions about who to support.”
Coakley’s office wants Lantigua to turn over the undocumented contributions and pay unspecified penalties for the other violations, along with the investigation costs incurred by state officials.
Lantigua is running for re-election against five challengers, including Rep. Marcos Devers; Nestor DeJesus, an accountant; Lawrence City Councilor Dan Rivera; James Patrick O’Donoghue, an inventor; and Juan “Manny” Gonzalez, a firefighter. The top two finishers proceed to the November general election.
“It’s another black eye for the city when the CEO is being looked at for improprieties,” said Rivera. “Playing by the rules is always easier and this is the product of trying to skirt them.”
Richard Padova, who teaches geography, history, and government at Northern Essex Community College, said he expects Lantigua’s rivals to seize on the charges. “However, I would caution his competitors that if they are going to use this as a weapon now, they need to make sure their own houses are in order,” he said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if the media starts scrutinizing his competitors’ reporting as well.”Beyond giving his opponents ammunition for new attacks, it is unclear what effect if any the latest revelations will have on Lantigua’s election prospects. His base of support is still firmly going to be behind him, Padova said. “There’s nothing you can say that’s going to change their minds.”