The Washington Post

In Mass., familiar and fishy donations to Dominican Republic

Sunday’s Boston Globe featured a story that will ring familiar to District ears: It involves a mayor, some surplus vehicles and a poor town in the Dominican Republic.

William Lantigua, mayor of Lawrence, Mass., is being investigated by federal authorities over whether his administration “has overseen the illegal shipment of city and private vehicles from Massachusetts to the Dominican Republic, including surplus undercover police vehicles and a school bus.”

Certainly the episode has shades of the “fishy fire truck” affair, where Mayor Adrian M. Fenty faced tough questions (though not a federal probe) over the proposed donation in 2009 of an ambulance and a fire truck to the seaside town of Sosua. Probes by the D.C. Council and the city Inspector General both found that procurement rules were flouted by Fenty administration officials, but found no criminal wrongdoing.

Lantigua seems to be in a bit more trouble. For one, he is accused of not only sending surplus city property, but also leaning on city contractors to send vehicles — including a garbage truck — to the Dominican town of Tenares, which is the ancestral home of many Lawrence residents. This would seem to be using his office to build political goodwill on his own behalf, which could run afoul of Massachusetts state law.

There was no connection between D.C. politics and Sosua except that it was a favorite vacation destination for certain members of Fenty’s circle.

There is one similarity between the two situations: The donations in both cases didn’t turn out as intended. The D.C. vehicles made it only as far as the dock before they were turned around and sent back to the city. And from Lawrence, only the garbage truck made it to Tenares. According to reporter Maria Sacchetti, it is now “the pride of this impoverished city at the foot of the mountains in the northern Dominican Republic.”

Hat-tip to my colleague Ben Pershing for alerting me to the Globe story.

Mike DeBonis covers Congress and national politics for The Washington Post. He previously covered D.C. politics and government from 2007 to 2015.


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