Just days after announcing his reelection bid, Mayor William Lantigua of Lawrence has been hit with a $5,475 tax lien for allegedly failing to pay state income tax in 2011.
The state Revenue Department filed the lien against Lantigua last week, the embattled mayor’s latest misstep in a three-year tenure dogged by controversy. The agency took the step after Lantigua did not respond to several notices over at least six months, a spokeswoman said.
“When we file a lien, it means we have not heard from a taxpayer,” said spokeswoman Ann Dufresne. The amount includes $710 in penalties and interest.
Lantigua did file a 2011 tax return, Dufresne said. She declined to say whether he has paid any state income tax, citing privacy guidelines.
Lantigua, who is paid $100,000 a year, did not return phone calls or e-mails seeking comment Thursday.
The Eagle-Tribune first reported the lien Thursday, a day after it was recorded at the registry of deeds. The lien attaches to any personal property, Dufresne said.
“It’s a notice of personal liability,” she said. “We’re protecting our interests.”
Tax liens impede property sales and make it “virtually impossible” for someone to obtain a mortgage, according to the Revenue Department.
If Lantigua does not pay the bill on his own, the state could turn to a collection agency, seek a bank levy, or garnish his paycheck.
Lantigua has touted his fiscal stewardship of the city, which in 2010 received a $35 million state bailout to bridge a massive deficit. With state oversight, the budget has stabilized.
Lantigua’s administration has been the target of an extensive state and federal corruption investigation, and in September two close associates, including his former chief of staff, were indicted on corruption charges, including conspiracy and extortion.
Melix Bonilla, the deputy police chief, was charged with falsely transferring the ownership of 13 motor vehicles from the Police Department to an auto dealer with close ties to Lantigua.
Leonard Degnan, Lantigua’s former chief of staff, was charged with using his position to compel a trash disposal company to donate a garbage truck to a Dominican Republic city that supported Lantigua’s mayoral campaign.
Both men have pleaded not guilty. Lantigua has denied wrongdoing and he has not been charged with any crimes.
Dan Rivera, a city councilor in Lawrence, said Lantigua’s failure to pay his taxes in full and on time was troubling, and set a poor example.
“As the chief executive, you have to have a higher standard, especially at a time when the city is raising taxes and being as frugal as possible,” he said. “There are some things you just have to do.”
Rivera said that the lapse was particularly glaring given how much the city relies on state subsidies.
Rivera also noted that Lantigua has not filed a required campaign finance report for 2011. The state’s Office of Campaign and Political Finance said Lantigua had been fined the maximum $5,000.
“I definitely get a sense that there’s a pattern here,” he said.
The state turned that fine over to a collection agency in August. In March, the attorney general’s office began investigating Lantigua’s fund-raising practices after state regulators found that Lantigua’s campaign routinely violated campaign finance laws.
City Councilor Kendrys Vasquez said Lantigua’s nonpayment of taxes was hard to understand given Lantigua’s high salary.
“We all face difficulties nowadays, but we have to be responsible,” he said.
Kevin Cuff, a recent state representative candidate, said Lantigua’s failure to pay taxes would hurt him in the eyes of ordinary voters who may not have followed past City Hall controversies.
“This is finally something that will resonate with people,” he said.
City Councilor Sandy Almonte said the lapse was “obviously concerning,” and that she hoped Lantigua would resolve the matter quickly.
“We don’t want this to be another rain cloud over the city,” Almonte said.Peter Schworm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globepete.