William Lantigua recall, Lawrence, Massachusetts (2011)
In October 2011, recall proponents announced that they were launching a second recall effort against Lantigua. The second effort fell short when recall organizers failed to have the affidavit seeking the recall notarized. A third recall attempt was launched in November 2011. The signature submission deadline for the latest recall attempt was January 15th, 2012. Citing a fear of retaliation, recall organizers did not submit enough signatures to force a recall election, and the recall effort was abandoned.
The City of Lawrence has a population of about 70,000. A majority of the city's residents are Latino. It is one of the poorest cities in Massachusetts.
Lantigua, who was once a member of the Massachusetts State Legislature, was elected to the position of mayor of Lawrence in 2009. Born in the Dominican Republic, Lantigua is the first Latino to be elected mayor of a city in Massachusetts.
Reasons for recall
A group called "It's Your Right" spearheaded the first recall effort. The Rev. Edwin Rodriguez, now a candidate for city council, was the leader of this group. The group says it targeted Lantigua because "he is incompetent, tries to intimidate people who oppose him, has divided Anglos and Latinos and has tarnished Lawrence's image."
When Lantigua was first elected mayor, he initially refused to give up his state representative’s seat. He caused a controversy by drawing two government paychecks in the midst of tough economic times. He also came under fire for cutting the police force and writing letters of recommendation for accused criminals.
A group called "Uniting Lawrence" is behind the second recall effort. The group's leader is Josué Hernández. Hernandez says Lantigua "is not capable and qualified to run the city." In January 2012, someone accessed and illegally posted Hernandez's juvenile criminal record and posted it on a Facebook group for Lantigua supporters. The matter is currently under investigation.
The recall affidavit, printed in both English and Spanish, lists six reasons for recalling Lantigua, including a state Department of Education report which deemed him "unqualified" to lead School Committee meetings and his "callous behavior" and "disrespectful" body language at a peace march in September 2011.
Path to the ballot
- First attempt: Recall supporters would have needed to collect the signatures of 5,232 registered voters by August 8, 2011. 5,232 signatures is 15% of the city's registered voters. In August, the city's Board of Registrars confirmed that recall organizers had handed in only 4,366 valid signatures of the 5,232 required to force a recall election. Recall supporters had turned in 5,500 signatures, but city officials ruled that over 1,000 of them were invalid. Despite challenging the Board of Registrar's findings, saying that a number of valid signatures had been wrongfully rejected, recall supporters came up short in their first effort. Recall supporters believe that their efforts were sabotaged by Lantigua supporters within City Hall. Recall organizers discovered that the city clerk had failed to sign and date each page of the petition that he distributed to petition drive organizers at the beginning of the recall process. Because of this clerical error, there would have been no way for the Board of Registrars to verify that the petitions had been signed within the necessary time period.
- Second attempt: To formally launch the second recall attempt, recall proponents would have needed to submit 100 voter signatures. If those signatures were to have been validated, supporters would have had 30 days to collect the signatures of 5,232 voters, or 15% of registered voters as of the last election. If the second batch of signatures were to have been validated, the city council would have had to order a recall election within 60 days. In early November, recall supporters turned in 100 signatures to the city. However, the affidavit had not been notarized, which rendered the signatures legally invalid.
- Third attempt: Recall organizers launched a third recall attempt in November 2011. The group Uniting Lawrence had a new affidavit drafted and notarized. Recall organizers said they collected over 300 signatures outside of polling places on the November 8th election. Recall organizers turned in 358 signatures on November 28th. If 100 of these signatures are validated, organizers will have 30 days to collect the 5,232 signatures necessary to force a recall election. A recall election would be called by the city council within 60 days of signature verification. Recall organizers currently have until January 15th, 2012 to submit 5,382 signatures. In December 2011, the petitions had to be reprinted after City Attorney Charles Boddy ruled that the petitions needed to have a Spanish translation. The fate of 500 signatures that were gathered before the ruling is unclear. On January 15th, despite having collected thousands of signatures, recall organizer Josue Hernandez submitted just 17 signatures to the city clerk. He said he is withholding the additional signatures to protect signers from being intimidated and to prevent the risk of signatures being thrown out on a technicality. Hernandez said recall efforts will continue, and "We need somebody who knows how to run this process a fair way."
- Boston.com, "Lantigua recall drive falls far short," August 13, 2011
- Eagle Tribune, "Recall process started," July 8, 2011
- Boston.com, "Another Lantigua recall effort begins," October 11, 2011
- Eagle Tribune, "Lantigua recall stalls at first step a second time," November 5, 2011
- Eagle Tribune, "Volunteers at polls for 3rd Lantigua recall attempt," November 9, 2011
- Eagle Tribune, "Group starts fourth attempt to recall Lantigua," November 29, 2011
- Eagle Tribune, "Recall petition effort continues; fate of 500 signatures may be in courts," December 24, 2011 (dead link)
- Eagle Tribune, "Recall reverse: Organizers turn in only 17 signatures," January 15, 2012
- News Times, "Lawrence, Mass., mayor remains defiant under fire," May 14, 2011
- Eagle Tribune, "Second Lantigua recall effort starts," October 27, 2011
- Eagle Tribune, "Lantigua recall papers to be filed this week, group leader says," April 26, 2011
- Eagle Tribune, "2nd Lantigua recall effort ready to start," October 25, 2011
- Eagle Tribune, "Editorial: Dirty tricks against recall organizer part of a sinister pattern," January 8, 2012 (dead link)
- Eagle Tribune, "Lantigua recall effort turns in just enough signatures," August 8, 2011
- Boston.com, "Foes of Lawrence mayor say petition is invalid due to city’s clerical error," August 14, 2011