EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

February 17, 2014

Fundraising bonanza follows election

Lawrence's new mayor raises $126K for his campaign, recount and inauguration

By Keith Eddings

---- — LAWRENCE — Mayor Daniel Rivera raised $126,000 in the three months following his upset victory on Nov. 5, substantially more than he raised over his entire 10-month campaign to win the office, records show.

Since defeating William Lantigua, Rivera raised $35,300 for his campaign organization, another $31,300 to hire a legal team for the recount that followed the election and $59,805 more for last month’s inaugural events, according to five separate financial disclosure forms he filed with the state.

In contrast, the new mayor raised last year $89,572 for his campaign to unseat Lantigua, his disclosure forms show.

The fundraising operation for Rivera’s campaign organization continued churning after the election, when it collected enough to more than wipe out a debt of about $5,000 with a series of mailings and fund-raisers, including a morning coffee event at the law office of Vincent Manzi in Methuen that brought in about $3,500. Rivera reported no expenses for the event, but Manzi said only Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and donuts were served.

Rivera’s campaign had a $30,703 balance on Dec. 31, the last date for which records are available.

In an interview last week, Rivera said his inaugural fund also has a surplus in the bank but would not say how much and is not required to disclose the amount. He said he’ll spend the balance on events such as the second Family Day of skating on Campagnone Common that he was scheduled to host this weekend and on other public events and causes.

Rivera said his lawyers ate up all of the $31,300 in the separate fund he established to defend against the recount Lantigua requested, which included a $31,000 donation from a single donor, William Perocchi, a former Lawrence resident who is part owner and CEO of Pebble Beach Resorts in California.

State law caps campaign contributions from individuals to a candidate at $500 a year and prohibits corporations and businesses from giving anything to political campaigns. But after elections, individuals, corporations and businesses can give unlimited amounts to so-called segregated accounts that candidates can create to pay post-election expenses such as for recounts and inaugurations.

The limits on campaign contributions remain in place year-round. Rivera made the task of raising funds for his mayoral campaign even tougher by voluntarily refusing to accept donations from city employees.

But Rivera, like the state, placed no limits on donations to his inaugural and recount funds.

Dozens of city employees bought $50 tickets to Rivera’s inaugural gala on Jan. 4, led by police officers, firefighters and teachers.

Several vendors and contractors that do business with the city contributed a total of more than $20,000 to sponsor the celebration, Rivera’s disclosure forms show.

Among them:

Patriot Ambulance and the family members who own the company gave a total of $7,900. Patriot has an exclusive contract to provide rescue services in Lawrence, although a transition committee Rivera appointed to study public safety issues said the city should end the contract and hand off rescue services to the Fire Department.

Coady’s Towing and its affiliate, 495 Truck and Auto Recyclers, along with the family that owns the two businesses, gave $3,500. Coady’s has a towing contract with the city.

Jackson Lumber, which gave $5,000. The company is owned by the Torrisi family, including Lisa Torrisi, Rivera’s chief of staff.

TEC Engineering, which gave $2,500. The company does civil engineering for the city. Its president, Mitchel Keamy, and his wife Susan also gave $500 each to Rivera’s campaign organization;

Several local nightclub owners, including the owners of Terra Luna and Centro Latino, who gave just under $1,000. The clubs are regulated by the city.

Other sponsors of the inaugural gala included Lawrence General Hospital, Lease and Rental Management of Andover and Enterprise Bank, which each gave $5,000. Tripoli’s, a local pizza and bakery, gave $1,250. Developer Sal Lupoli’s Riverwalk Partners and Salvatore’s Restaurant gave $2,500.

“We try to sponsor a lot of different initiatives and things like that, that are going on, whether it’s a $50 church fundraiser or a $5,000 gala,” said Vanessa Kortze, a spokeswoman for the hospital, which sent a delegation that included Neil Meehan, its chief medical officer, and Richard Santagati, its former chairman of the board, and their wives. “It’s important for us to participate in the community we’re supporting.”

David Torrisi, a former state representative who is a member of the family that owns Jackson Lumber and is the brother of Rivera’s chief of staff, noted that local businesses typically help pay for their mayor’s inaugural celebrations. He added that the value of business his company does with the city is small.

“Any state or local government should try to do business with local businesses if they can,” Torrisi said.

Rivera said businesses or individuals who paid for his recount battle or inaugural event can’t expect added influence to his office. He acknowledged he opposes his transition committee’s recommendation that he end the contract with Patriot Ambulance but said he’s long believed the service should remain privatized.

“When we’re talking about people who gave money as a corporate sponsor, and you ask in the same breath about ambulance service, I feel like your making a leap,” Rivera said. “One has nothing to do with the other. I share the view of a lot of people (that the city shouldn’t take over ambulance services), but I’m here to tell you one has nothing to do with the other.”

Rivera didn’t mention it, but two employees who bought tickets to his inaugural gala – Comptroller David Camasso and Jay Jackson, who maintained police vehicles and buildings – have since been fired by Rivera as he shapes his administration.

The campaign finance disclosure forms filed by former Mayor Lantigua show his fund-raising sputtered after his defeat Nov. 5. Through Dec. 31, Lantigua reported collecting just $3,172.

Lantigua reported no separate fund-raising for the recount, when he was represented by Andover lawyer Sal Tabit.