EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

August 27, 2013

AG sues Mayor Lantigua over alleged campaign finance violations

The Eagle-Tribune

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Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua is being sued by the state over alleged violations of campaign finance law violations, including accepting several thousands of dollars in potentially illegal cash and corporate contributions.

The suit was filed today in Suffolk Superior Court in Boston, Attorney General Martha Coakley and the Office of Campaign and Political Finance announced.

Among the allegations:

— During his first run for mayor, between 2008 and to 2010, Lantigua accepted 16 cashier’s checks or money orders worth more than $50 each, a potential violation of state law.

— In 2009, Lantigua or his campaign committee accepted more than $14,000 in potentially illegal cash contributions but failed to keep accurate accounts of the 22 individual deposits.

— Also in 2009, Lantigua received or failed to report four potentially illegal contributions from Rumbo Newspaper in the form of advertisements.

— In 2010, the mayor received or failed to report close to $5,000 in contributions from 60 Island Street, L.L.C. in the form of food and beverage and room rental fees.

— During 2009, at Lantigua failed to report nearly $20,000 worth of campaign expenditures, including a payment of more than $9,000 to Costa Eagle Radio for ads. Costa Eagle is partly owned by The Eagle-Tribune.

— During the 2009 campaign, Lantigua allowed Methuen Police Officer Elvin Alarcon to serve as his campaign finance officer and City Hall employee Lorenza Ortega as treasurer. State campaign finance laws prohibit public employees from soliciting or receiving contributions for candidate for public office.

— Lantigua failed to meet deadlines for three campaign finance reports in 2009, even after agreeing to an "enhanced reporting schedule" due to past violations. "In addition to being filed late, all three (2009 reports) were also inaccurate, incomplete or unsigned," the attorney general's statement said.

In January this year, Coakley and OCPF sued Lantigua for failing to file a 2011 campaign finance report. Lantigua later filed the report and paid a $5,000 civil fine.

Besides the mayor, the lawsuit names the Committee to Elect William Lantigua and Ana Soto of Lawrence, the committee’s current treasurer. Soto is Lantigua's sister. The case was referred to the AG’s Office by OCPF in January 2012.

The lawsuit asks the court to order Lantigua to forfeit to the state contributions that may not have been accurately reported or were illegal. The lawsuit also asks that Lantigua be fined and pay the costs of the investigation.

“Campaign finance laws ensure the integrity of the electoral system,” AG Coakley said. “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.”Assistant Attorney General Carrie Benedon of AG Coakley’s Administrative Law Division is handling this case.