EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

August 28, 2013

Suit: Mayor accepted illegal cash, donations

BOSTON — Attorney General Martha Coakley sued Mayor William Lantigua yesterday for alleged campaign finance violations amounting to tens of thousands of dollars and dating to his years in the Statehouse.

Among the allegations, Coakley said, Lantigua accepted illegal cash contributions; failed to disclose in-kind services provided by a catering hall, a weekly newspaper and a radio station; and allowed a city hall secretary — now his wife — and a Methuen cop to serve as financial officers in his campaign.

Public employees are not allowed to hold official positions in campaign organizations or to solicit or receive political contributions.

The lawsuit — the second in a year against Lantigua by the state’s top law enforcement official — comes two weeks before Lantigua is due to file his next round of campaign finance disclosure forms on Sept. 9, and three weeks before he will face five other candidates in the preliminary election for mayor on Sept. 17.

Christopher Loh, a spokesman for Coakley, rebuffed a question about whether the lawsuit is politically timed.

“This was an extensive investigation and we brought the case forward when it was ready,” Loh said.

Loh said Coakley was not available for an interview. In a prepared statement emailed to news organizations, she said, “Campaign finance laws ensure the integrity of the electoral system. These disclosures are important to let voters know where candidates’ contributions are coming from and to help them make informed decisions about who to support.”

Coakley — a Democrat, like Lantigua — was joined in the complaint by Michael Sullivan, the director of the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance. Sullivan began investigating the allegations against Lantigua, his campaign organization and his campaign treasurer – Ana Soto, who is Lantigua’s sister — about two years ago and referred them to Coakley in January 2012. Soto and the Committee to Elect William Lantigua were named as co-defendants in the civil suit.

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