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    AG sues Mayor William Lantigua over donations

    State suit alleges Lawrence mayor and his campaign violated fund-raising rules

    Mayor William Lantigua is facing new allegations.
    Jim Davis/Globe staff
    Mayor William Lantigua is facing new allegations.

    State officials filed a lawsuit Tuesday against Mayor William Lantigua of Lawrence, alleging that he and his campaign staff committed a range of fund-raising violations dating back to 2008.

    Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office and the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance filed the suit in Suffolk Superior Court against Lantigua, his campaign committee, and its current treasurer, Ana Soto.

    The suit is the latest round of trouble for Lantigua, who has been dogged by controversy. Among the latest allegations are that the defendants accepted thousands of dollars in potentially illegal cash and corporate contributions, kept shoddy records, and had public employees solicit and accept donations in violation of state law.


    Officials are asking a judge to fine Lantigua and compel him to forfeit contributions that may not have been properly recorded or were illegal, among other sanctions, Coakley’s office said in a statement.

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    Attempts to reach Lantigua and Soto for comment were unsuccessful Tuesday.

    Lantigua’s lawyer, Jeffrey Denner, said he had not had a chance to review the complaint in detail with the mayor but that he will eventually file a formal response “that contains our best thoughts about the efficacy and the accuracy” of the complaint.

    Coakley said in a phone interview that while the complaint alleges civil infractions, rather than criminal acts, “it does indicate an inability or an unwillingness to comply with what the campaign finance laws required.”

    She declined to say whether criminal charges are possible in the future.


    According to the complaint, Lantigua or his committee received unlawful in-kind contributions totaling about $7,200 between 2009 and 2010 from Rumbo Newspaper, in the form of advertisements, and 60 Island Street LLC, a local vendor in the form of food, beverage, and room rental expenses.

    The complaint said the mayor and his committee also allegedly failed to keep records of 22 cash deposits totaling $14,672 in 2009, including any record of who donated the money and how much they contributed.

    In addition, Lantigua’s campaign accepted 16 cashier’s checks or money orders between 2008 and 2010 totaling $3,550, a potential violation of state law, according to the complaint.

    Other violations cited in the complaint include a charge that the campaign committee failed to report at least $19,034.45 in expenditures in 2009.

    Lantigua has faced federal and state corruption investigations for at least two years.


    The campaign finance office started looking into his fund-raising in June 2011, after the Globe reported that his campaign records were both incomplete and rife with undisclosed donors and questionable gifts from businesses.

    “There were mistakes, but there was no intention of breaking the law,’’ Lantigua told the Globe last year. “It was my responsibility. Without a doubt, mistakes were made. But they were honest mistakes.’’

    A political ally of the mayor was arrested in June on charges of stealing money from the city-owned garage where he worked and of illegally doing campaign work for Lantigua while on the job.

    Two other former aides were indicted last September on public corruption charges.

    Earlier this year, Lantigua paid $5,000 to settle a previous lawsuit brought by Coakley over failure to file a campaign finance report.

    Asked Tuesday whether any criminal charges against the mayor were looming, Denner, his lawyer, said, “At this point we have no comment, other than . . . we do again absolutely assert his innocence with regard to criminal wrongdoing.”

    Councilor Dan Rivera , one of several candidates vying to unseat Lantigua in the upcoming mayoral election, said Tuesday that the lawsuit is “just another black eye for the city, when the CEO of our community is being investigated.”

    He added, “Clearly, I’m running a campaign to be mayor because I feel like we need change.”

    Andrea Estes, Sean Murphy, and Martin Finucane of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@
    . Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.