Transcripts of grand jury testimony suggest that, in the administration of Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua, what the mayor wants is more important than any concerns over what is legal and what is not.
And that testimony also makes clear that some lower level city employees had no desire to challenge Lantigua or those within the mayor’s inner circle. One said he was intimidated and feared for his job.
The multi-jurisdictional probe of Lantigua’s administration extends back to April 2011. A grand jury has been issuing subpoenas and hearing testimony since June 2011.
In September, an Essex County grand jury handed down 10 indictments against Lantigua’s ex-Chief of Staff Leonard Degnan and Deputy Police Chief Melix Bonilla, who also served as Lantigua’s campaign manager. The charges against Bonilla stem from the swap with a Lawrence car dealer of 13 city-owned vehicles for four Chevrolets. The charges against Degnan allege he pressured the city’s trash hauler to donate a truck to Lantigua’s native Dominican Republic.
Also in September, a federal grand jury indicted city police officer P.J. Lopez. The indictments allege Lopez made arrangements with a tow company to have cars he ticketed towed in exchange for a “stream of benefits,” including a $4,000 snow plow.
But the main question still hangs over Lawrence like a cloud: What about Lantigua? Will the grand jury indict him, too? Do federal, state or local prosecutors have any evidence that the mayor has committed any crimes?
Twenty months is a long time for any investigation. Frankly, it is time for prosecutors to put up or shut up. If they have any evidence against Lantigua, let them indict him and present their case in open court. If not, then clear the mayor and let the city get on with its business.