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November 3, 2013

Scofflaw board oversees Lawrence election

(Continued)

Massachusetts General Law requires all municipal boards, councils other public agencies to “maintain accurate minutes of all meetings, including executive sessions, setting forth the date, time and place, the members present or absent, a summary of the discussions on each subject, a list of documents and other exhibits used at the meeting, the decisions made and the actions taken at each meeting, including the record of all votes.”

Maloney did not return a phone call Friday.

Minutes “allow the public to see the government at work,” said Peter Caruso, a First Amendment lawyer who represents several news organizations in the region, including The Eagle-Tribune. “By keeping these records secret, you keep secret the actions of public officials.”

Although the Board of Registrars is independent, Rivera, the two-term city councilor challenging Lantigua, said Lantigua bears responsibility for its deficiencies.

“The way they do business under this mayor is that whatever they want to do, they do,” Rivera said. “It doesn’t matter what the law is or what common sense says. They just do it. Of course it’s important that the board keep minutes. It’s the elections board for the city. There’s nothing more important than that.”

At least one of the board’s deficiencies could be corrected Wednesday, the day after the election, when voters will choose not only a mayor but also a City Council and two school committees. Lantigua last month nominated Francisco Surillo and Ricardo DeJesus to fill the two vacant seats on the board. The council could vote on the nominees on Wednesday.

Surillo is the brother-in-law of Deputy Police Chief Melix Bonilla, who managed Lantigua’s 2009 campaign. Lantigua kept Bonilla on paid leave from his $140,000-a-year job even after Bonilla was indicted on extortion and other corruption charges 14 months ago.

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