EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 31, 2013

Lantigua pays $5,000 campaign finance fine

Too early to say if Coakley will withdraw suit against mayor

By Keith Eddings

---- — LAWRENCE — Mayor William Lantigua yesterday paid a $5,000 fine 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.

The check was hand-delivered to the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance in Boston at about 4:30 yesterday, a half hour before Lantigua was due to respond to a suit Attorney General Martha Coakley filed Jan. 9 seeking to force Lantigua to pay the fine and to file the financial disclosure form.

Jason Tait, a spokesman for OCPF, could not say who dropped the check off, but said it was not Lantigua.

Lantigua could not be reached last night.

Lantigua filed the financial disclosure form Jan. 22 and paid the fine yesterday, but by 4:10 p.m. yesterday had not filed his response to Coakley’s suit in Suffolk Superior Court, a court clerk said.

The suit also names Ana Soto, the treasurer of Lantigua’s campaign committee, who also is his sister.

With the disclosure form filed and the fine paid, Lantigua and Soto can now argue they have responded to Coakley’s demands, although OCPF may still review the form to ensure it is compliant.

Lantigua was required to pay the fine out of his personal funds and is not permitted to bill his campaign committee for the expense.

The OCPF fine Lantigua paid yesterday is the second fine by a state agency that Lantigua paid this month. On Jan. 5, he paid the Department of Revenue $5,475 for his failure to pay income taxes in 2011. The DOR placed a lien on Lantigua’s $100,000 mayoral salary to force the payment, which included $710 in fees, penalties and interest.

Brad Puffer, a spokesman for Coakley, said yesterday it is too early to say that she will withdraw her suit.

“The intent of our lawsuit was to compel mayor Lantigua to file with OCPF and pay the outstanding fine,” Puffer said. “We understand that a check was delivered today. Once we confirm that all conditions of the lawsuit have been fully met, we will evaluate our next step.”

Even if Lantigua dodges this suit, another may be brewing. Coakley is conducting a second investigation into allegations that Lantigua failed to report expenses for as many as 15 campaign events in 2009, 2010 and 2011.

In addition, the form he filed earlier this month disclosing his fundraising and spending for 2012 does not include expenses for a campaign event at Rio’s Bar and Grill on Appleton Street on Dec. 28, which drew about 100 people.

Lantigua did not return a phone call last week seeking to learn why he had not reported the expense, but published reports say he had not been billed for the event by the time he filed the 2012 disclosure form last week.

Lantigua announced at the event that he will run for a second four-year term as mayor.

Lantigua’s failure to file his 2011 disclosure form for longer than a year prompted state Reps. Diana DiZoglio, D-Methuen, and Bradley Jones, R-North Reading, to propose a bill that would block municipal candidates with outstanding campaign violations or fines from appearing on a ballot, a standard that now applies only to county and state candidates.