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.