15 November 2007

Whitewash in Hartford

The state Elections Enforcement Office has decided to slap Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez on the wrist for illegally spending $20,000 in city money to pay for mailings and other materials promoting his stewardship of the capital city.

In May, the Connecticut Republican Party filed a complaint with Elections noting that Fast Eddie has published 50,000 copies of a faux newspaper titled "Hartford Educator," which was distributed to thousands of Hartford residents, prominently featuring the photo and quotes for Mayor Eddie on the state of an education system which boasts a 50 percent drop out rate.

The law strictly forbids this use of taxpayer's funds one year before the election of the office holder that is featured. The old law had a five-month restriction. Perez claimed they thought the old law was still on the books. Hartford does have a full-time legislative liaison to track such things and City Hall is approximately a half mile from the State Capitol, but apparently Eddie didn't get the memo. That is their excuse - they didn't know the law changed.

So, the Elections "Enforcement" Commission has proposed that Eddie pay $839.00 to settle the matter. That's right - $839.00.

No matter. It seems ignorance of the law is acceptable to the Elections "Enforcement" Commission, which has handed out much more severe punishment to Democrats and Republicans for matters more technical that this gross violation of the law.

And since, the ruling came conveniently after the November 6 Election, it makes you wonder about the how impartial the Elections Enforcement would have been if a Republican office holder had crossed the line like Eddie Perez.

Interesting to note this issue has come up before.

According to today's Hartford Courant,

This is not the first time the commission has found a politician to be in violation of the same law for the same reason. In 2004, then-Mayor Lucian Pawlak of New Britain paid $615 to reimburse that city for the cost of a newsletter called "The New Britain Educator," which ran in local newspapers and included Pawlak's picture, stories lauding the school system's accomplishments and a column by Pawlak. Like Perez, Pawlak did not have to pay the $18,000 production costs for New Britain's advertisement.

Some of Pawlak's key staffers at the time now work for Perez.