LAWRENCE — Mayor William Lantigua, facing a movement to throw him out of office, showed last night he won't go down without a fight, indicating he'll formally challenge all 5,600 signatures submitted on petitions seeking his recall.
Lantigua said he'll ask the state, city clerk and city attorney that all signatures submitted by the group pushing for the recall, It's Your Right, be verified. The verification request is one of six Lantigua made in a letter hand-delivered to the Board of Registrars and copied to Secretary of State William Galvin, City Clerk William Maloney and City attorney Charles Boddy.
Lantigua brought the one-page letter to members of the Board of Registrars Ronald Martin, chairman, Lynn Garcia and Esvelia Torres and Maloney, who sits as an ex officio member, who were meeting in the City Council Chambers to get a status report on recall petitions from elections coordinator Rafael Tejeda.
Lantigua arrived before the meeting started, accompanied by Chief of Staff Patrick Blanchette. He did not address the crowd and they both left the room after handing the letters to the board.
Soon after, Tejeda addressed the registrars telling them that so far 1,800 signatures submitted have been verified "as good."
Tejeda along with Maloney and senior election clerks Daniel Tavera and Richard Reyes have been certifying the signatures.
In all, Tejeda said they have done about 134 pages and are 45 percent done.
"Maybe we'll finish by 2 to 3 p.m. Thursday," Tejeda said.
The board will meet again on Friday "to consider the results of the recall election petition certification process and vote upon the final certification of those results, if accepted by the board," Maloney said in a notice he posted about the meeting.
"Depending on the final tally and the challenges from one side or the other, I think it's going to be a little hectic," Martin said. "Our job as a board is to always be on the side of the voter."
Organizers of It's Your Right said they are ready for the next battle.
"We're waiting for that and more," said the Rev. Edwin Rodriguez of Lantigua's request for verifying all the signatures.
"It doesn't surprise us at all. we're expecting his old tricks and the new ones that we are now learning."
"This is absolutely a frivolous attempt to delay the process," said Anthony DiFruscia, one of three lawyers the recall team is using." He can challenge one signature, but not the entire thing. This is typical of his tactics."
DiFruscia said It's Your Right has made sure that voters who have signed the petition were on the registrar's list and those who have moved since the last election have signed an affidavit.
Recall organizer Wayne Hayes said Lantigua's actions show he is afraid.
"We want all of them verified one way or the other," he said. "He's doing this because he's afraid because he knows people want him out."
Monday, members of It's Your Right turned in 5,600 signatures to Maloney.
Tensions were high in the room, not just because of the 60 people who attended the meeting some in support of the recall and others who supported Lantigua.
After Tejeda spoke, Sue LaPlante asked if his remarks could be translated into English, even though he spoke English.
"This is a grass-root cause being undertaken by residents of the city, for the city of Lawrence, which will affect the rest of the region," Wilson said. "That's why its so important that Lawrence can continue to prosper."
Among those supporting Lantigua at the meeting last night was Manuel Lara.
Lara wore a red, white and blue T-shirt from Lantigua's mayoral campaign.
"I wear it because I love Lantigua," he said. "They're doing this out of envy. He has not done anything wrong. On the other hand, he has done a lot of good in the city."
Public meeting notice
What: City of Lawrence Board of Registrars
When: Friday, 5 p.m.
Where: City Hall, City Council Chambers, 200 Common St.
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