Dawson questioned on re-election campaign violation
By Katelyn Gendron
Reminder Assistant Editor
AGAWAM -- If Mayor Susan Dawson's campaign manager mails a letter to each town employee requesting his or her presence at a re-election campaign fundraiser, is that a violation of the state's Conflict of Interest Law? One town employee wants to know.
Reminder Publications received an anonymous letter last week from a person claiming to be a town employee who was "intimidated and offended" upon receipt of such a letter from Dawson's Campaign Manager Art Jasper.
Dawson told Reminder Publications that neither she nor her campaign manager had any comment on the matter.
The town employee alleges that he or she has since forwarded the letter to the State Ethics Commission requesting their advisement.
The letter, dated September 2009, read, "Dear Valued Town Employee: You are cordially invited to join our committee for a ziti dinner on Sept. 9, 2009 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Italian Sporting Club, 349 Cooper St., Agawam.
"As the best interest of all employees has been at the root of Mayor Dawson's decision making, as evidenced by the 2010 balanced budget with no lay-offs anyplace in town, we are asking for your support by attending this fundraiser and your vote in the upcoming Primary Election. You can also request a sign for your yard through our Web site at www.mayordawson.com
. Your support is greatly appreciated.
"We are looking forward to an exciting campaign season and hope that you will join us for this exciting event. Sincerely, Art Jasper, campaign manager. Created, prepared and paid for by the campaign workers for the Committee to Reelect Susan R. Dawson."
In response to the aforementioned letter, the anonymous town employee wrote the following to the State Ethics Commission: "I am a Town of Agawam employee and I received this letter in the mail. It came in a plain white envelope with no return address. I feel intimidated and offended by this letter. I have to work in the town and know that if I don't make a contribution, the mayor will find out because giving money to a candidate is public record. Please help me by looking into this."
When asked if the State Ethics Commission had received any documentation from the Agawam employee or Dawson's Re-election Campaign Committee, David Giannotti, chief of the Public Education and Communications Division of the State Ethics Commission, said, "We can't confirm or deny whether we've received any complaints, nor can we confirm or deny that we are conducting any investigation."
According to the State Ethics Commission's Web site, "The Massachusetts Conflict of Interest Law prohibits all public employees, whether compensated or not, from using their authority to solicit campaign contributions or services, or anything else of substantial value from subordinate employees, vendors they oversee, or anyone within their regulatory jurisdiction."
However, according to the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF), "A public employee may contribute to candidates and attend fundraisers; run for office (a employee must organize a campaign committee if he or she plans to raise any money); [or] work for campaigns and committees in a non-fundraising capacity, such as holding signs, stuffing envelopes, hosting coffees or other meetings, or being a member of a committee."
When asked if she'd contacted the State Ethics Commission or the OCPF, Dawson said she had no comment, adding that she has not even seen the letter from the anonymous town employee.