Lantigua has considerable political support in Lawrence and nearly won a majority of votes himself in a election Sept. 17. But there is significant opposition to Lantigua, too. A former ally, state Rep. Marcos Devers, challenged Lantigua for mayor but lost in the preliminary. City Councilor Daniel Rivera, also a Democrat, won the second spot in the general election Nov. 5, but garnered less than half as many votes as Lantigua.
While Lantigua rang up more than 47 percent of the vote last week, that left more than 52 percent voting against the mayor.
Coakley’s office filed a lawsuit against Lantigua last month, accusing him of campaign finance violations amounting to tens of thousands of dollars dating back to his years as a state representative, including accepting illegal cash contributions, failing to disclose in-kind services provided by a catering hall, a weekly newspaper and a radio station and allowing a city hall secretary – now his wife – and a Methuen cop to serve as financial officers in his campaign.
Public employees are barred from holding official positions in campaign organizations or to solicit or receive political contributions. Coakley asked the Suffolk County Superior Court to order Lantigua pay at least $27,832 in contributions he is accused of receiving in violation of state law and that were omitted or improperly reported. She also sought fines that could total tens of thousands of dollars more and reimbursement from Lantigua to her agencies for the cost of the investigation.
Earlier this year, Coakley filed a suit against Lantigua for failing to file a report detailing fundraising and spending by his campaign organization in 2011 until more than a year after the report was due. He paid a $5,000 fine to settle the complaint.
A negative judgement in a lawsuit could bolster Lantigua’s opposition and prove a boon to Coakley’s campaign. “Keeping in mind that over half the voters in Lawrence voted against Lantigua, there’s that pool of 52 percent roughly that voted against him,” Padova said. “I think obviously they don’t want him, so any thing that comes out about him, let’s say he’s indicted and formally charged, then I think that galvanizes the 52 percent. It helps her.”