By Douglas Moser
---- — Attorney General Martha Coakley is suing Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua over a $5,000 fine he has refused to pay for campaign finance violations.
Coakley announced the suit earlier today with a press release in which she said the suit is seeking a court order for Lantigua to pay his fines and to file his 2011 campaign finance report, the violation that elicited the fines.
“Political candidates by law are required to accurately report campaign contributions and expenditures,” Coakley said in her statement. “These disclosures ensure the integrity of the electoral system and help voters make informed decisions about who to support. Mayor Lantigua was ordered repeatedly to file these disclosures and pay the subsequent fine, yet has refused to do so. We are now seeking a court order compelling him to make these fundamental disclosures required of all political candidates.”
The lawsuit was filed today in Suffolk Superior Court requesting that the court order him to file his 2011 year-end campaign finance report with OCPF. Ana Soto, Treasurer of the Lantigua Committee, which raises and spends money in support of the Mayor’s candidacy, is also named in the lawsuit, Coakley's statement said.
Under M.G.L. c. 55, § 18, Lantigua and Soto are required to file reports of the Lantigua Committee with OCPF to disclose the donations made to the campaign, as well as the campaign’s expenditures.
At the same time, State House Minority Leader Brad Jones and newly elected Methuen Rep. Diana DiZoglio said today they plan to file legislation to prevent local-level politicians who ignore state campaign finance laws from running for office.
OCPF Director Michael Sullivan sent a second investigation request to Coakley in June, asking her to take “the strongest possible action” against the mayor and a handful of other elected officials for their failures to file forms disclosing fund-raising and spending by their campaign organizations in 2011. The form was due Jan. 20, 2012, and were not filed as of Monday, making them 50 weeks overdue.
For failing to file those reports, OCPF has assessed a $5,000 fine, the maximum allowed. In August, after Lantigua disregarded OCPF’s attempts to collect the fine, the agency turned the debt over to a private collection agency. Lantigua is personally responsible for paying the fine and cannot pass it off to his campaign organization.
Lantigua, who ran for mayor in 2009 and took office in January 2010, also has not filed two disclosure forms due since his 2009 mayoral campaign.
Check back with The Eagle-Tribune for updates, and see tomorrow's edition in print or at eagletribune.com for a full report.
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