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January 10, 2013

AG sues Lantigua over unpaid fines

LAWRENCE — In the strongest action taken yet by law enforcement, Mayor William Lantigua was sued yesterday by Attorney General Martha Coakley after refusing for more than a year to file a 2011 campaign finance report and pay off the $5,000 fine that mounted against him as a result.

Coakley described Lantigua’s ongoing defiance of state campaign finance law as “unacceptable ignorance on his part. There is no excuse for it.” She also confirmed yesterday there are other allegations against Lantigua her office is looking into.

At the same time, at least two lawmakers drafted bills yesterday designed to prevent municipal candidates with outstanding campaign violations or fines from appearing on a ballot, a standard that applies county and state candidates. It was unclear, however, whether the bills would be passed in time to affect the upcoming mayoral race in Lawrence.

Lantigua, mayor since January 2010, failed to file the campaign finance report “for almost a year now,” despite repeated requests for the document from the state’s Office of Campaign and Political Finance, Coakley said.

When Lantigua did not file the report by the due date, Jan. 20, 2012, he was subjected to a $25-per-day fine that maxed out at $5,000. OCPF turned the unpaid bill over to a debt collection agency last summer when he failed to pay.

The suit, filed yesterday in Suffolk Superior Court, asked the court to order Lantigua to file the 2011 year-end report listing his campaign contributions and expenditures with the campaign finance office and to pay the $5,000 fine out of his own pocket — not with campaign funds. The suit also named Ana Soto, Lantigua’s sister and campaign treasurer.

“The Office of Campaign and Political Finance has repeatedly requested this filing from Mayor Lantigua. They’ve been ignored, frankly,” Coakley said. “Our goal here has always been to get the report filed.”

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