Lunenburg Chief Did Not OK Photo in Tran Campaign Mailer
FITCHBURG -- Lunenburg’s police chief said Tuesday he did not authorize a photograph used in a campaign mailer for state Sen. Dean Tran that featured five of his officers and four EMS personnel because he knows public employees are not allowed to endorse political candidates.
“We didn’t authorize any kind of endorsement. We know you can’t do that,” Lunenburg Police Chief James Marino said when contacted about his appearance with several of his officers in the Tran mailer that landed in mailboxes through the district this week.
“It was a mistake,” added Marino.
A spokesman with the state Ethics Commission, while not commenting on any specific or potential violation, explained the photograph of the Lunenburg town employees appearing in a Tran campaign mailer referenced the following provision in the commission’s guidelines for public employees:
″... a public employee may not engage in political activity, whether election-related or non-election related, on his public work time; while acting in his official capacity or while in his official uniform; in a public building (except where equal access for such political activity is allowed to all similarly situated persons); or with the use of other public resources, such as staff time, public office space and facilities,” according to the commission regulations.
The photo in question that appeared on the mailer was taken -- said Tran on Tuesday when asked about the possible violation -- by one of his campaign volunteers at a barbecue held at the Eagle House Senior Center in Lunenburg and posted on his Facebook page on Sept 12.
Before being texted this morning by his campaign manager Austin Cyganiewicz, Tran said he was unaware of the possible ethics violation.
“I got in touch with my campaign and they contacted the Ethics Commission,” said Tran, who added he didn’t directly contact the commission.
Tran said he was told by Cyganiewicz the Lunenburg public employees will have no action taken against them for appearing in the mailer because they didn’t do it “intentionally.”
He also said Cyganiewicz told him there would be “no actions taken” by the Ethics Commission against his campaign and would be issuing a letter on Tuesday about what happened.
Tran forwarded the correspondence Tuesday after a response from, Kevin Larivee, assistant general counsel with the state Ethics Commission that was sent to an unidentified campaign employee.
In the correspondence, Larivee wrote: “To summarize: your boss, a state senator, was previously photographed with some public safety officers and the photos were put on Facebook. Subsequently, a campaign consultant for the senator may have used these photos without discussing it with you/your boss first. For attorney of the day questions like this, the Ethics Commission does not give advice on past conduct or on issues that might affect third parties (such as the safety officers), but in the future I would recommend not using photos of people in uniform for campaign materials.”
Springfield’s Get Set Marketing designed the mailer, Tran said. No one there returned a call for comment.
He said the graphics design company pulled the photo from his Facebook page for use in the mailer and coordinated with the state Republican Party to have it mailed throughout the district.
When Tran was asked if he had “proofed” the mailer before it was sent, he said no.
“My campaign staff signed off on it,” said Tran. “I didn’t see it until I saw my mail at home.”
Tran, a first term member of the state Senate, is being challenged by Leominster Democratic Sue Chalifoux Zephir, who he defeated in a special election in December 2017 to fill the seat vacated by former Sen. Jennifer Flanagan.