By Jill Harmacinski
---- — LAWRENCE — Two political allies of Mayor William Lantigua — Deputy Chief Melix Bonilla and Leonard Degnan — made brief appearances in Salem Superior Court yesterday as their criminal cases move forward.
Bonilla, Degnan and attorneys agreed to return to court on Aug. 7 to address any final discovery matters before trial. A fall trial is eyed in the bribery, extortion and conspiracy cases.
Both Bonilla and Degnan, who previously served as Lantigua’s chief of staff, were charged as part of an ongoing investigation into Lantigua and members of his administration.
More than two years ago, Lantigua was identified as a target in a multi-jurisdictional investigation that involved allegations of corruption, bid rigging, suspicious out-of-state travel, campaign finance violations as well as the shipment of cars and a trash truck to the Dominican Republic.
Bonilla is specifically charged with swapping 13 city-owned vehicles for four Chevrolets from a Lantigua friend. Degnan is accused of pressuring a city trash hauler to donate a truck to Lantigua’s native Dominican Republic.
Earning $140,000 annually, Bonilla has remained on the city payroll since Sept. 11, 2012 when he was indicted by an Essex County Grand Jury and placed on paid administrative leave. Police Chief John Romero and city councilors have asked Lantigua, the appointing authority, to stop paying Bonilla.
Degnan, owner of a Salem Street insurance company, served as Lantigua’s chief of staff from January 2010 to May 2011, when he abruptly resigned.
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