SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Nation/World

November 14, 2013

Guarding Lawrence ballots will cost $25K by weekend

(Continued)

Lantigua could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Rivera said the cost of the police guard is money well spent, even for the state’s poorest city.

“We need to have 100 percent confidence that our electoral process works, that the voters’ will is not being challenged,” Rivera said. “Some other time, we’ll be in a place where it doesn’t matter, where the people will trust the electoral process, but they just don’t right now.”

Police also stood over the ballots the last time a race for mayor in Lawrence went to a recount 20 years ago, when Mary Claire Kennedy added three votes to her 11-vote margin in the recount and defeated Lawrence LeFebre. Acting Mayor Leonard Degnan attempted to dodge the cost of the police guard by asking state police to take custody of the ballots. The state police declined.

This year, the Lawrence Police Department’s budget includes $627,270 for overtime, up $28,000 from last year.

Neither of the city’s two police unions endorsed a candidate for mayor, although eight cops contributed to Lantigua’s campaign between Aug. 31 and Oct. 18, the period covered in the most recent financial disclosure forms filed by Lantigua and Rivera.

Also contributing to Lantigua was Lydia Bonilla, the wife of Deputy police Chief Melix Bonilla, who Lantigua put on paid leave from his $140,000-a-year job after he was indicted for extortion and other crimes 15 months ago.

Lydia Bonilla gave Lantigua $500, the maximum allowed.

Rivera did not accept contributions from city employees.

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