---- — Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua has again run afoul of state campaign finance law, demonstrating he has little respect for the rules that keep our elections free and fair.
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley and the Office of Campaign and Political Finance filed suit against Lantigua in Suffolk Superior Court in Boston yesterday. The lawsuit also names the Committee to Elect William Lantigua and Ana Soto of Lawrence, the committee’s current treasurer. Soto is Lantigua’s sister.
The lawsuit alleges that Lantigua or his campaign accepted potentially illegal donations of cash or in-kind services. It further alleges that Lantigua violated campaign reporting requirements and illegally made use of public employees in his campaign.
According to the lawsuit, Lantigua, during his first run for mayor between 2008 and 2010, accepted 16 cashier’s checks worth more than $50 each, a potential violation of state law. In 2009, Lantigua or his campaign accepted more than $14,000 in potentially illegal cash contributions but failed to keep accurate accounts of the 22 individual deposits.
In 2010, the mayor received or failed to report close to $5,000 in contributions from 60 Island Street LLC in the form of food and beverage and room rental fees, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit states that Lantigua received or failed to report four potentially illegal contributions from Rumbo, a bilingual weekly newspaper, in the form of advertisements. He also failed to report nearly $20,000 worth of campaign expenditures, including a payment of more than $9,000 to Costa Eagle Radio for ads. Costa Eagle is partly owned by The Eagle-Tribune.
Campaign finance law prohibits public employees from soliciting or receiving contributions for a candidate for public office. But, according to the lawsuit, Lantigua hired Methuen Police Officer Elvin Alarcon to serve as his campaign finance officer and Lawrence City Hall employee Lorenza Ortega as treasurer. Ortega is now Lantigua’s wife.
The lawsuit states that Lantigua failed to meet deadlines for three campaign finance reports in 2009, even after agreeing to an “enhanced reporting schedule” due to past violations.
“In addition to being filed late, all three (2009 reports) were also inaccurate, incomplete or unsigned,” the attorney general’s statement said.
Campaign finance laws exist to keep elections fair by assuring that all candidates play by the same rules. A candidate who breaks campaign finance laws gets an unfair advantage over his opponents.
“Campaign finance laws ensure the integrity of the electoral system,” Coakley said. “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.”
The issues of fairness and playing by the rules do not seem to concern Lantigua in the least.
In January, the state sued Lantigua for failing to file a 2011 campaign finance report. Lantigua later filed the report and paid a $5,000 civil fine.
Lantigua is running for re-election as mayor of Lawrence. He faces five candidates in a preliminary election on Sept. 17.
Lantigua’s latest campaign finance report is due next week. Will his reporting be timely and accurate? Will Lantigua follow campaign finance law and accept only those contributions he is legitimately allowed? Hard to say. Voters have only his poor track record on which to base their judgments.