EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

September 14, 2013

Nine council candidates fail to file disclosures

By Keith Eddings

---- — LAWRENCE — Nine of the 21 candidates for City Council in Tuesday’s preliminary election — including incumbents Oneida Aquino and Sandy Almonte — have not filed the financial disclosure forms that were due Tuesday.

Of the 12 who have filed, their paperwork shows that in the state’s poorest city, council seats can be had for little or nothing.

The spending is lightest in the six district races, where only Almonte (District A), Aquino (District D) and Eileen Bernal (District E) face challengers.

Bernal has spent nothing, her disclosure form shows. Her challenger, Kathleen Runge, has spent just $27.92 (on bank fees).

Almonte’s challenger, Rosa Pina, has not filed her disclosure form.

Aquino’s challenger, Marta Rentas, has raised $385 and spent $586, leaving her $201 in debt.

Among the three council candidates representing districts who do not face challengers, Estella Reyes (District B) has spent $43, Kendrys Vasquez (District C) has spent $1,502 and Marc Laplante (District F) has spent $165.

The six council candidates running at large who have not filed their disclosure forms are Chally Ramos, Denise Perrault, Jorge Gonzalez, Maria De La Cruz, Mark Gray and Nilka Alvarez-Rodriguez.

Candidates who fail to file face fines of up to $25 a day. Last year, Mayor William Lantigua paid a $5,000 fine for failing to file a 2011 disclosure report until more than a year after it was due. State Attorney General Martha Coakley recently filed new allegations of campaign finance irregularities against Lantigua, including failure to file several disclosure forms.

“The campaign finance laws primary focus is disclosure, so the public can see the money raised and spent by their candidates so there is transparency in the electoral process,” said Jason Tait, a spokesman for the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance.

Among the six at-large candidates who have filed, the biggest spender is Wendy Luzon, who has raised $3,938 and spent all but $78, her disclosure form shows. Her biggest donor is Zolia Gomez, a lawyer who is running City Councilor Daniel Rivera’s race for mayor. She gave $500 to Luzon.

Four sitting city councilors also gave to Luzon, as did state Rep. Marcos Devers, who is running for mayor against Lantigua. In all, Devers gave $50 each to five council candidates, including Rentas, the woman challenging Aquino, who is Lantigua’s most reliable supporter on the City Council.

Incumbent Roger Twomey has raised $4,766 and spent $2,359. More than half of what Twomey raised came from at least 54 donors who gave $50 or less, by far the most donors of any candidate. His most generous donor is Francis Coady, who owns a towing company with a city contract. He gave $500, the maximum allowed.

“That’s because the guy is as straight as an arrow,” Coady said about his gift to Twomey. “He came to me a couple of years ago and said, ‘I need some help with the schools, for cutting the grass and stuff like that.’ And I helped him. He made me feel good with the city.”

Former Councilor Modesto Maldonado has raised $1,862 and spent $2,284 on his comeback campaign, leaving him $748 in debt. His biggest backers are real estate investors Alberto Nunez and Donald Minor.

Francisco Surillo has raised $570 and spent $1,455, leaving him $885 in debt.

Francisco Brea has raised $2,475, including $2,200 from unions such as the Lawrence Teachers’ Union and the state AFL-CIO.

Cara Martinoli has raised $415 — all of it her own money — and spent $165.

The preliminary election is Tuesday. Six at-large candidates will go on to the general election on Nov. 5 and six will not. All of the candidates running in the districts will go on to November because there are no more than two running in any of the districts.