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Merrimack Valley

October 16, 2013

Lantigua pushes favorite for board

Rivera questions nominee's objectivity

LAWRENCE — Mayor William Lantigua is nominating two men to the board that conducts city elections, including one who ran unsuccessfully for City Council last month with Lantigua’s support and could now be in a position to decide the mayor’s fate on Nov. 5.

Francisco Surillo gave up his seat on the School Committee to run for an at-large seat on the City Council in the Sept. 17th preliminary election, when he was one of three candidates for whom Lantigua campaigned in a field of 12. Surillo finished seventh in a race that sent the top six finishers on to the Nov. 5 general election.

Beyond any political tie to Lantigua, Surillo has a personal one: His wife is the brother of Deputy Police Chief Melix Bonilla, who managed Lantigua’s first campaign for mayor in 2009. Lantigua promoted Bonilla from sergeant to deputy chief just after taking office and last year put him on paid leave from the $140,000-a-year job after he was indicted on corruption charges. Surillo said he and his wife are divorcing.

If approved by the City Council, Surillo would be at least the second member of the Board of Registrars with a political tie to the mayor. The board maintains the city’s voter list and rules on issues that include challenges to voters at the polls and the validity of absentee ballots, powers that can decide the outcome of close races.

Lantigua named Ana Medina to the board in 2011, following an election in which she campaigned tirelessly enough for Lantigua that the mayor singled her out for thanks in his election night victory speech, according to a Spanish language news organization that covered the speech.

Medina is back on the campaign trail for Lantigua this fall, sending him checks, attending his rallies and placing his campaign stickers and signs on her car and home.

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