Foes of Lawrence mayor say petition is invalid due to city’s clerical error

Opponents of Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua announced today that they are withdrawing their petition for a recall election, and will start the process over from scratch.

A clerical oversight invalidated all 5,483 signatures they have collected, they said, and the fault lies with the city clerk, William Maloney.

“The clerk was supposed to sign the petition, and he didn’t,’’ said Wayne Hayes, a member of “It’s Your Right,’’ the organization seeking Lantigua’s ouster. “So we have basically wasted 30 days.’’

Lantigua and Maloney did not return phone and email messages seeking comment.

In 2009, Lantigua, who was born in the Dominican Republic, became the first Latino mayor elected in Massachusetts. Now, he is the target of an investigation by federal and state officials to determine whether he used government money for personal gain.

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After submitting an initial petition of at least 100 signatures a month ago, the members of “It’s Your Right’’ were given 30 days to obtain 5,232 more signatures, 15 percent of voter turnout in the last election.

On Friday, the city’s Board of Registrars determined that more than 1,000 signatures collected in that petition for a recall election were invalid because of problems such as illegible names or addresses that did not match city records. That left the petitioners 866 signatures short of the requirement for a recall election.

On Saturday, while the petition leaders worked to obtain affidavits for all the missing signatures, the group’s attorneys realized that all 5,483 signatures collected are invalid, because the city clerk did not sign and date each page of the petition that he distributed to the petition leaders at the beginning of the 30-day period.

Without the clerk’s stamp, there is no way for the Board of Registrars to verify the petitions were signed within that time period.

Because of this error, the Lawrence residents taking part in the effort to remove Lantigua from office will have to start the petition process again from the beginning.

Still, members of the “It’s Our Right’’ say they have no intention of giving up on their battle against the mayor.

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“I don’t feel defeated,’’ said the Rev. Edwin Rodriguez said. “I’m ready to start all over again.’’

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