Secretary of State William F. Galvin, the state’s chief elections officer for more than two decades, is leaning heavily on employees within his office to help with his first serious primary fight in years, and in some cases, potentially running afoul of ethics rules.
At least 13 taxpayer-funded employees who work for the secretary of state’s office have filed election paperwork on his campaign’s behalf during weekdays or normal business hours, the Globe found after reviewing documents from dozens of local clerk’s offices.
In several instances, they did so while drawing a regular day of public pay, time sheets provided by Galvin’s office show, signaling potential ethics violations. State employees are not specifically barred from doing political work, but they’re not allowed to perform such tasks while on the public clock.
Galvin’s office released the payroll documents late Wednesday afternoon after the Globe published a story online about his practice of relying on state workers for the campaign work.
Galvin said before their release that he didn’t believe any rules were violated.
“I believe they’re on their own time, not public time. I need to verify that. But I’m pretty sure,” Galvin, a six-term Brighton Democrat, said in a phone interview Tuesday.
Debra O’Malley, a Galvin spokeswoman, said Wednesday night she wasn’t able to address specific questions on employees, but added that workers “do not necessarily have the same work schedules or locations.”
“Obviously, if it is determined that any employee improperly completed the time sheet, appropriate disciplinary actions will be taken,” she said.
The Globe found two other statewide incumbents who had received assistance from state employees in filing signatures with local clerks, but to a much lesser degree. Three employees helped State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump, at least one of whom was on the public clock and has been disciplined, her office said. And time sheets show that a lottery worker took personal or vacation time when he filed paperwork on behalf of State Treasurer Deborah B. Goldberg.
As overseer of the state’s election system, Galvin is tasked with upholding and defending the integrity of the democratic process in Massachusetts. His office determines whether candidates have rightly earned their place on the ballot, and he’s overseen countless local, state, and federal races.
The Globe reviewed nomination papers submitted to 25 city and town clerks throughout greater Boston, each of whom is charged with verifying signatures turned in by campaigns before candidates, like Galvin, can qualify for the ballot. All nomination papers were due to local clerks by Tuesday. Candidates for secretary of state must have 5,000 certified signatures.
Thirteen of the 22 people who had filed signatures on Galvin’s behalf in those offices were on his state payroll. In several cases, the employees’ time sheets show them using thin slices of vacation or personal time — sometimes as little as 30 to 60 minutes — on days they also filed signatures. Others took full days off.
Under state ethics laws, elected officials are not allowed to “use public resources for election-related political purposes.” Non-elected public employees are also specifically banned from doing campaign tasks while on “public work time,” according to the State Ethics Commission.
Galvin said Tuesday that he did not ask any employees to help his campaign. “All of them are active in the Democratic Party. Many of them are delegates,” Galvin said of the employees. “They’re politically active people.”
Except when they say they’re not.
Shawn Flynn, a Suffolk Registry of Deeds clerk who filed nomination papers for Galvin in Malden shortly before 2:30 p.m., on a Monday in March, said he believes he left work early that day. But his time sheet indicates he was given a day of “skeleton” pay, a type of paid leave that typically denotes when a department uses a slimmed-down staff.
“I’m not a particularly political person,” Flynn said. He declined to say whether anyone from Galvin’s office asked him to submit the paperwork.
“I think I’ve given you enough,” he told a reporter.
Other employees were far busier.
John Barr, an $82,000-a-year “special projects assistant” for Galvin, is listed as filing paperwork for Galvin four times at Boston City Hall, all between 11:25 a.m. and 12:36 p.m., on weekdays in February or March. On three of those days, he put in for a half-hour of personal time, his time sheets show. One time he called out sick, yet dropped off signatures.
Anthony Sclafani, an $83,469-a-year floor manager under Galvin, filed nomination papers in five different communities for Galvin. One of the days he was given “authorized leave.” On another day he received regular pay, he was in Medford at 8:48 a.m. filing signatures.
Lida E. Harkins, a former state representative who now works for Galvin as a census specialist, was just as active, making at least five stops between Needham, where she lives, or Natick.
Harkins told the Globe Monday she took three personal days to file paperwork. But the Globe found four instances in which she was in Natick submitting or picking up signatures on days she drew full pay.
“I really have tried to be meticulous to take time off when I did this stuff,” Harkins said Monday. “There’s certainly no intention to deprive the Commonwealth of work hours.”
Meanwhile, Anthony DiLeo, a clerk, worked a full day on Feb. 8, according to his time sheet. But he also was in Peabody at 1:05 p.m. dropping off signatures.
He and other employees in Galvin’s office did not return phone calls seeking comment.
Public employees, many of them campaign alums themselves, routinely offer help to do political work on their free time for a range of office holders. They’re also allowed to do personal errands on a lunch break, though that’s not a reason Galvin or employees who spoke to Globe have cited for submitting signatures. But the practice can also mean walking a fine line.
Aides to Bump, when presented with the Globe’s findings about employees helping her campaign, would not identify which of the three did campaign work on public time, but Mike Wessler, a Bump spokesman, said that “appropriate immediate disciplinary action has been taken against the employee and their manager.”
Bump did not ask employees to perform the work for her, according to her office.
An assistant director for the state lottery’s office in Braintree, which falls under Goldberg, visited the clerk in that town on three different days to pick up or drop off paperwork for her campaign, the Globe found. Time sheets provided by the lottery show the employee took a personal or vacation day each time.
Several other office holders appear to have used volunteers or paid campaign staff to do such tasks. The Globe did not find any instances of Governor Charlie Baker, Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito, Attorney General Maura T. Healey, or Galvin’s Democratic challenger, Boston City Councilor Josh Zakim, tapping public employees working for them to turn in petitions to the offices the Globe reviewed.
Galvin used volunteers at least five times, and in one instance, filed signatures himself, according to the paperwork reviewed by the Globe. In three instances, filers identified themselves only by initials or their handwriting was illegible, making it difficult to determine their names.
With $2.7 million in campaign cash at his disposal, Galvin said he’s never used paid staff to do such work. He’s spent just over $28,300 since November, the same month Zakim launched his campaign, but none of it has been on paid staff. In fact, Galvin’s campaign finance reports list paying just one individual in that time — $100 in February, for “bookkeeping.”
Galvin’s first primary fight in many years has not been without controversy. In March, Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera said Galvin called to lay into him after he publicly endorsed Zakim. At one point, Rivera said, Galvin told him, “I made you mayor.” Galvin’s office had overseen that voting in Lawrence — previously beset by irregularities — had been fair during Rivera’s razor-thin win in 2013.
Galvin told the Globe in March that he called Rivera because he felt the mayor had promised to endorse him at an event in January.Joshua Miller of Globe staff contributed to this report. Reach Matt Stout at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @mattpstout.