HAVERHILL - Gov. Deval Patrick refused to comment yesterday on what action he will take to protect the city of Lawrence financially if Mayor William Lantigua is indicted on criminal charges.
A federal grand jury has been meeting since at least June to weigh criminal evidence against Lantigua, who is the focus of both a federal and state investigation into allegations of bid rigging, narcotics and weapons trafficking at local clubs, suspicious out-of-country travel and more, law enforcement sources have previously confirmed.
Patrick yesterday said "it's way too soon" to say what steps the state will take if Lantigua is indicted. He would not say if he supported appointing a receiver to control the city's finances.
"Speculation isn't helpful," said Patrick, during an afternoon visit to the Haverhill headquarters of Northern Essex Community College.
"I can tell you we are not going to let Lawrence fail," he said.
Lantigua's former chief of staff Leonard Degnan, who resigned abruptly May 23, and former Public Works Director Frank McCann, testified before the federal grand jury June 14. Numerous city vendors have also been called to testify. Part of the investigation focuses on city-owned and other vehicles, including a trash truck, that were shipped to Lantigua's native Dominican Republic, sources confirmed.
Patrick proposed legislation that allowed Lawrence to borrow as much as $35 million privately to fix the city's troubled finances days before Lantigua took office in January 2010. After the bill's passage three months later, Patrick appointed Robert Nunes, a state Department of Revenue official, as Lawrence's financial overseer. Two-thirds of Lawrence's municipal budget is funded with state money.
"As much as possible we want Lawrence to stand on Lawrence's own two feet," Patrick said yesterday.
Lantigua has repeatedly refused to answer questions from The Eagle-Tribune.