LAWRENCE – Mayor William Lantigua yesterday rejected recommendations from his personnel director and from the city clerk that he place an election official on leave following allegations that the official faked signatures on nominating petitions and then certified them as valid.
“I am deeply concerned with the allegations that a member of your department, under your control, may have acted improperly,” Lantigua said in an e-mail to City Clerk William Maloney, suggesting he may attempt to hold Maloney responsible for any corruption uncovered in the city’s Election Division. “However, I also think it’s inappropriate for me to take action against anyone involved so directly with the election process, hours away from an election, without a proper investigation.”
The promise of that investigation came even as Lantigua was pushing the send button on his e-mail to Maloney, when Secretary of State William Galvin announced he would look into the allegations against Rafael Tejeda, Lawrence’s bilingual election coordinator.
The allegations were published in The Eagle-Tribune on Sunday.
The newspaper alleged that Tejeda last spring signed the names of at least four Lawrence residents on petitions that put City Council President Frank Moran on the Democratic line in the 17 Essex House District in today’s election. The newspaper relied on an analysis by forensic handwriting expert Ronald Rice of Plymouth, who found “the style, slant and flow” of the four signatures matched Tejeda’s own signature on Moran’s petitions and on Tejeda’s voter registration card.
Tejeda also filled out the box at the bottom of the sheet of signatures certifying that all 23 signatures on the sheet were valid, including the four alleged fakes, Rice said.
Tejeda denied faking the signatures.
Moran did not return a phone call yesterday, but said earlier that the allegations are “lies” cooked up by his opponent for the House seat, Kevin Cuff, who is running as an independent. Cuff brought the signatures to the attention of The Eagle-Tribune last week, when he alleged that all 180 or so signatures on Moran’s petitions were signed by just five or six people. He called the similarities in the penmanship “goofy.”