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Lantigua calls recall backers ‘sore losers’

By Martine Powers
Globe Correspondent / August 16, 2011

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As opponents of Mayor William Lantigua of Lawrence prepare today to renew efforts to force a recall vote, the mayor is calling the group of petitioners “sore losers.’’

This afternoon, the group will ask the Board of Registrars to withdraw their collection of signatures because of a technical error: They say that the city clerk, William Maloney, did not properly sign and date each page of the petition before giving it to group leaders, as is mandated by law.

They say the entire petition is invalid and must be started over.

But yesterday, Lantigua countered that the withdrawal of the petition is simply an attempt to distract from the fact that they were not able to collect the requisite number of signatures for a recall election.

While the group, It’s Your Right, gathered 5,483 signatures, at least 1,000 were invalidated because of problems such as illegible names or addresses that did not match voting records, leaving the petitioners 866 signatures short of what they needed to force a recall election.

“Since they fell short of what they needed, they are now looking for any and all excuses to try again,’’ Lantigua said.

Lantigua had his own problems with the petition: For example, when the clerk gave the materials to the petitioners, he did not include language to indicate that falsifying a signature on a recall petition is punishable under the law.

“They think the clerk is on our side,’’ Lantigua said. “Well, I think the clerk is on their side.’’

Maloney said he will wait until after today’s 5 p.m. Board of Registrars meeting to answer questions.

Wayne Hayes, an It’s Your Right member, said the group is not trying to game the system but is a victim of bureaucracy at City Hall.

“It still stands that the process is flawed, and the city was trying to hurt us from the beginning,’’ Hayes said. The group will also demand an investigation into the recall process from the City Council, he said.

When elected in 2009, Lantigua, who is from the Dominican Republic, became the first Latino mayor in Massachusetts. Now, he is being investigated by the state over possible campaign finance violations and US officials over allegations of corruption.

Martine Powers can be reached at mpowers@globe.com.