Lawrence Mayor Sued by AG’s Office and Office for Campaign and Political Finance for Inaccurate Reporting and Potentially Illegal Cash Contributions
Complaint Seeks Civil Penalties and Future Compliance with Finance Laws
BOSTON – The Mayor of Lawrence has been sued for allegedly committing several campaign finance law violations, including accepting several thousands of dollars in potentially illegal cash and corporate contributions, Attorney General Martha Coakley and the Office of Campaign and Political Finance announced today.
“Campaign finance laws ensure the integrity of the electoral system,” AG 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 lawsuit was filed in Suffolk Superior Court today by the AG’s Office and the Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) against Mayor William Lantigua, the Committee to Elect William Lantigua and Ana Soto, of Lawrence, the committee’s current treasurer. The case was referred to the AG’s Office by OCPF in January 2012.
The complaint alleges that during his first run for mayor between the calendar years 2008 to 2010, Lantigua accepted 16 cashier’s checks or money orders worth more than $50, a potential violation of state law.
During calendar year 2009, the complaint alleges that Lantigua or his committee accepted more than $14,000 in potentially illegal cash contributions but failed to keep accurate accounts of the 22 individual deposits. Due to the inaccurate and sometimes incomplete nature of Lantigua’s financial disclosures it is difficult to discern if the 22 deposits comprised smaller individual donations.
Also in 2009, Lantigua allegedly either received or failed to report as expenditures or unpaid liabilities four potentially illegal contributions from Rumbo Newspaper in the form of advertisements. In 2010, the mayor received or failed to report close to $5,000 in contributions from 60 Island Street, L.L.C. in the form of food and beverage and room rental fees.
The complaint further alleges that Lantigua failed to report nearly $20,000 worth of expenditures from his campaign account during 2009, including a more than $9,000 payment to Costa Eagle Radio for advertising.
State campaign finance laws prohibit public employees from soliciting or receiving contributions for any candidate for public office. The complaint alleges that during his run for mayor in 2009, Lantigua permitted Methuen police officer Elvin Alarcon to act as his campaign’s finance director and Lorenza Ortega, who worked in the City of Lawrence’s personnel department, to serve as treasurer.
According to the complaint, due to previous inaccurate campaign finance disclosures, Lantigua agreed to an enhanced reporting schedule with OCPF during 2009 but failed to meet the deadlines for three periods including Jan. 1 to April 30, 2009, May 1 to Aug. 31, 2009 and Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2009. In addition to being filed late, all three were also inaccurate, incomplete or unsigned.
In January 2013, AG Coakley and OCPF sued Lantigua for failing to file a 2011 campaign finance report. Lantigua later paid a $5,000 civil fine and filed the missing report.
Today’s lawsuit asks the court to order Lantigua to forfeit, by payment to the Commonwealth, certain contributions that may not have been accurately reported or were illegal. The lawsuit also seeks to fine Lantigua based on the various violations alleged and to order Lantigua to pay the costs of the investigation. In addition, it seeks to order future compliance with the law.
Assistant Attorney General Carrie Benedon of AG Coakley’s Administrative Law Division is handling this case.