No one would deny Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua the right to celebrate his victory in Tuesday’s preliminary election. But, as with so much the mayor does, the level of arrogance and vitriol that was incorporated into the celebration was unseemly.
Lantigua, first elected mayor in 2009, handily defeated five challengers in the preliminary. Lantigua received 5,725 votes or nearly 48 percent, more than twice the tally of his nearest challenger, City Council Vice President Daniel Rivera, who polled 2,799 votes. Lantigua and Rivera move on to the general election in November.
Lantigua’s administration has been plagued by scandal and the indictments are piling up. Yesterday, Justo Garcia, a city parking lot attendant and campaign photographer for Mayor William Lantigua, was indicted by an Essex County Grand jury on larceny and other charges.
Garcia, 60, was arrested and charged in June with stealing from the city-owned Museum Square parking garage where he worked. He also stands accused of submitting fraudulent receipts for money he charged for parking passes and faking his time card to say he was working when he was actually performing campaign work for Lantigua.
The grand jury indictment moves Garcia’s case to Superior Court, where the penalties he faces are more severe.
Two police officers with close political ties to Lantigua — including Deputy Chief Melix Bonilla, who was at the mayor’s side Tuesday night — have been indicted and continue to receive their full pay while awaiting trial.
Bonilla has collected his $140,000 per year pay while under indictment on five counts of extortion, fraud and conspiracy for his alleged involvement in a swap of city-owned vehicles with Lawrence car dealer Bernardo Pena, a Lantigua friend and campaign supporter.
Officer P.J. Lopez is still being paid his $60,000 per year, despite being indicted in September on charges that he lied to a federal agent and made arrangements with a local tow company to have cars he ticketed towed by the company in exchange for a stream of benefits.
Lantigua himself has been the target of state and federal investigations and has twice been sued by the state for campaign finance violations.
Given the scope of these investigations and the dismal state of the city’s finances, as well as its schools having been placed in state receivership, it might have been appropriate for Lantigua to display a little humility on his preliminary election victory. But humility is not in the mayor’s emotional vocabulary.
Instead, Lantigua led a raucous march of his supporters from his campaign headquarters down Essex Street to City Hall, where he addressed the crowd of 200 from the stairwell in the building’s four-story atrium.
“This is your City Hall,” Lantigua told the crowd in Spanish. “This is the City Hall of the community.”
In fact, it is the City Hall of all Lawrencians, even the 52 percent of voters who did not cast their ballots for Lantigua. Yet the mayor had little respect to offer these residents of what he likes to call the Great City of Lawrence.
One of these was the Rev. Edwin Rodriguez, who led one of the unsuccessful recall drives against Lantigua during his first term. Rodriguez offered Lantigua his assessment of the mayor’s electoral victory — a thumbs down gesture.
Lantigua then denounced Rodriguez as “el diablo,” or “the devil” and his supporters surrounded the minister waving their campaign signs in his face. Rodriguez was extricated from the scene by police.
Campaign enthusiasm is a fine thing — unless it begins to resemble a threat. We hope the mayor chooses to conduct his general election campaign against Rivera on a higher level than this.