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April 1, 2014

Editorial: Degnan in chains and Lawrence's missed opportunity

Leonard Degnan sounded every bit the two-bit strong-arm man when he put the squeeze on an executive for Allied Waste not long after William Lantigua’s election as mayor of Lawrence in November 2009.

Stanley Walczak, general manager of the company, said he was summoned to a meeting that December at Degnan’s South Lawrence insurance office.

Degnan was Lantigua’s pick to become the mayor’s chief of staff and, as such, had influence. He also had a mission.

He made it clear at the meeting that Allied Waste had better play ball with the new administration or lose its three-year, $6.4 million trash-hauling contract.

Degnan was “hostile” and threatening, Walczak said. He said he could “rip up” the contract if he wanted to.

Nice little contract you got here. It would be a shame if anything happened to it.

Degnan said the mayor-elect was looking for donations from major contractors. What he wanted from Allied Waste was a couple of trash trucks for Lawrence’s sister city, Tenares in the Dominican Republic.

In the end, Walczak arranged the transfer of one old truck worth perhaps a few thousand dollars.

Seems a small price to pay for a $6.4 million contract.

Degnan could pay a much bigger price.

Yesterday, he was led scowling from Lawrence Superior Court in handcuffs and chains to a waiting Essex County Sheriff’s Department van after being convicted of his crimes.

The court is across the street from City Hall, where Degnan once held sway as interim mayor and chief of staff and where Lantigua ruled the city for four years.

Degnan spent last night behind bars and will spend the next two nights there as well as he awaits sentencing on Thursday.

After nine hours of deliberations that began Friday, a jury of six men and six women found Degnan guilty of bribery, conspiracy, knowing solicitation of a bribe and unlawful use of an official position. He was cleared of extortion.

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