EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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September 1, 2013

Lantigua's leadership is central issue

Successes, scandals mark first term as mayor

(Continued)

“We knew he was going to be a hard character to work with in the beginning because of the insistence that he wanted to keep two jobs,” said City Councilor Daniel Rivera, another of the five challengers Lantigua faces later this month. “I think everybody figured that out.”

Controversies

From the petty to the profound, the controversies have continued through Lantigua’s first term.

His wife, City Hall secretary Lorenza Ortega, was forced to return a $500 federal heating subsidy she collected for the Boxford Street condo she shares with Lantigua, who together earn $150,000.

He fired a public works employee who refused to return from the unpaid leave he took to care for his dying wife, replacing him with former state representative Jose Santiago. Lantigua fired Santiago six weeks later when Santiago was charged with violating a restraining order.

The mayor’s former chief of staff, Leonard Degnan, has been indicted for allegedly shaking down city contractors. Melix Bonilla, his deputy police chief, has been indicted for allegedly swapping 13 city cars for four owned by a used car dealer connected to Lantigua, a deal that the city’s fiscal overseer said cost the city $36,000. Lantigua suspended Bonilla, who managed Lantigua’s 2009 campaign, after his indictment. The mayor continues to pay Bonilla’s $140,000 annual salary.

In June, the man Lantigua put in charge of collections at the Museum Square garage, who also is his campaign photographer, was charged with skimming at least $6,000 from the cash-only facility.

Federal and state grand juries investigating his administration are continuing to meet and have called in almost all of Lantigua’s top aides and commissioners to testify, from his receptionist to his budget and economic development directors.

In June, an Essex County grand jury summoned the mayor himself.

More recently, state Attorney General Martha Coakley last week accused Lantigua of an exhaustive list of campaign finance law violations dating to 2008 and sued him over the issue for the second time in a year.

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