EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 23, 2013

Lantigua averts court order by filing disclosures

He's got $15,000 in bank, as rivals ponder a challenge

By Keith Eddings

---- — LAWRENCE — Mayor William Lantigua yesterday filed forms detailing fundraising and spending by his campaign organization over the last two years, narrowly beating a deadline to respond to a lawsuit by state Attorney General Martha Coakley seeking to force the disclosure.

The two forms Lantigua filed yesterday show his fundraising dropped from 2011 to 2012, even as his re-election campaign approached. He had $15,683 in the bank as of Dec. 31, a moderate sum for an incumbent mayor expected to face a primary challenge in a little more than eight months. Just 11 people contributed to his campaign organization last year, half of them city employees or contractors, his forms show.

How much Lantigua spent on his first race for mayor in 2009 is not known because he still has not filed two of the three financial disclosure forms due that year.

His 2012 filing may contain gaps in reporting his expenses similar to the gaps alleged in 2009, 2010 and 2011, when he allegedly failed to report expenses associated with 15 campaign events at restaurants, nightclubs and catering halls around the city. Lantigua held his most recent event on Dec. 29 at Rio’s, an Appleton Street restaurant and nightclub, when he announced he would run for a second four-year term to about 100 supporters. The disclosure form for 2012 that he filed yesterday does not list expenses for the event.

Lantigua could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Attorney General Coakley also could not be reached to determine whether she would drop her suit seeking to force Lantigua to file his 2011 financial disclosure form now that he’s filed it. Her suit also seeks a court order directing Lantigua to pay a $5,000 fine he accumulated at a rate of $25-a-day last year for failing to file the 2011 form, a debt the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance has turned over to a private collection agency.

Whether Lantigua has paid the fine could not be learned last night. He is personally liable for the fine and cannot pass it on to his campaign organization, so the payment does not appear on his disclosure forms.

The two forms Lantigua filed yesterday show he spent heavily in 2011, a year when he himself was not on the ballot but faced two recall attempts and also campaigned fiercely across the city to elect his favored candidates to City Council and School Committee. Both recall attempts failed and the mayor had mixed success electing his candidates, including one council candidate whose unsuccessful campaign he managed.

Lantigua began 2011 with $35,000 in the bank and raised another $17,140, including $4,000 that he personally lent his campaign organization. His spending – including $8,170 to print campaign postcards, $7,202 for four campaign events, $3,700 for campaign commercials broadcast on Univision, $1,426 for robo telephone calls and a $557 cell phone bill - reduced his balance at the end that year to $10,024.

Last year, he raised just $4,100 and spent $1,855.

Forty-nine people contributed to Lantigua’s campaign organization in 2011, a number that shrunk to 11 last year. For both years, the list of contributors includes city employees, nightclub owners and city contractors, and includes three men who have been subpoenaed by grand juries investigating alleged corruption in the Lantigua administration. The three are Police Officer Gary Yancey, DPW foreman Jorge Jaime and David Walton, the owner of Patriot Ambulance, a city contractor.

Lantigua has not been indicted, but his former chief of staff, Leonard Degnan, and his deputy police chief and top political lieutenant, Melix Bonilla, were indicted last year on corruption charges. Their trials are pending.

“At some level, that weakens him,” City Councilor Marc Laplante, who is considering challenging Lantigua, said yesterday about the indictments and the grand juries that still are meeting. “The question is how much.”

Laplante has just $1,700 in the bank. David Abdoo, who came in second to Lantigua in 2009 after spending $95,000 on the race, is considering another run for mayor but has nothing in the bank. City Councilor Dan Rivera is refusing to say whether he will make a mayoral run. He has $14,500 in his campaign account.

On the web Lantigua's campaign finance disclosure reports can be viewed at www.efs.cpf.state.ma.us/DisplayReport.aspx?reportId=166082 www.efs.cpf.state.ma.us/DisplayReport.aspx?reportId=166068