EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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January 10, 2013

AG sues Lantigua over unpaid fines

(Continued)

A reporter waited in Lantigua’s City Hall office for 90 minutes yesterday, but the mayor declined to be interviewed. Lantigua also did not return a voice message seeking comment.

By state law, political candidates are required to accurately report campaign contributions and expenditures. “These disclosures ensure the integrity of the electoral system and help voters make informed decisions about who to support,” she said.

If Lantigua refuses to pay the fine even after a court order, Coakley said Lantigua could be found in contempt and face jail time.

The mayor’s outstanding fines and unfiled documents currently do not prohibit him from getting on the ballot for a second term, however. Two state representatives yesterday said they planned to change that with bills that would hold local candidates to the same standard as county and state candidates.

State Rep. Brad Jones, the House Republican leader from North Reading, drafted a bill yesterday that would simply extend the same prohibition that covers county and state candidates — that they cannot have outstanding campaign finance violations or fines — to include municipal candidates who have to file with the Office of Campaign and Political Finance.

“If this were Deval Patrick doing this or a constitutional officer or myself, we would be precluded from running,” he said.

The current law prevents someone with outstanding violations from qualifying for the ballot, but does not specifically mention municipal candidates. The proposals would change that. While a violator’s name could not be printed on the ballot, Jones said the bill does not prevent someone from running a write-in campaign.

“But having a sticker campaign against someone who is on the ballot is a different kind of campaign,” he said. “It would become that much more difficult a hurdle for anyone running.”

Few campaign violations for failing to file a disclosure last more than a few days before the problem is taken care of and the fines paid, Jones said, and given Lantigua’s time as a state representative, the mayor certainly must know the process and deadlines.

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