Middletown mayor, gubernatorial hopeful apologizes for soliciting donations from city workers

Middletown mayor, gubernatorial hopeful apologizes for soliciting donations from city workers


Democratic gubernatorial candidate Dan Drew said Thursday that he will return donations sparked by a letter to city employees after drawing criticism that the solicitation violates state law.

Drew, Middletown’s mayor, sent the letter last week to city employees at their homes, something rival candidates from both parties said is illegal and an improper use of public resources.

Drew apologized Thursday in a statement released by his campaign, calling it error in judgment, and said he is refunding any donations he received from employees.

“Serving as your mayor is a wonderful experience every day, and I am proud of the work you do for the city of Middletown,” Drew said in the statement. “I would not ever want for you or anyone else to believe the letter was meant to coerce anyone.”

Rep. Liz Linehan, D-Cheshire, Drew’s running mate, applauded the apology and called him “a man of impeccable moral character.”

“Real character is shown in how we own and deal with our mistakes, and Dan has stepped up to the plate,” she said in a statement. “This kind of humility is what we need in a great leader, and Dan has shown his willingness to fill that role.”

The letter, first reported by the Middletown Press, asks Middletown employees for donations of $100, the maximum individual contribution allowed for those seeking public campaign financing grants under the Citizens Election Program.

Municipal employees are not allowed to solicit donations on behalf of a political candidate from employees under their supervision, according to state statutes listing illegal campaign practices.

State Elections Enforcement Commission Executive Director Michael Brandi declined to comment Thursday, saying his agency has not investigated the matter because it has not yet received a complaint of wrongdoing.

Some gubernatorial hopefuls weighed in, though, including fellow Democrat Chris Mattei, who called the letter “wrong — plain and simple.”

“As the elected Mayor of Middletown, he used the authority of his office to obtain the confidential information of his subordinates, and then used that authority and information to urge city workers to give money to his campaign,” Mattei said in a statement. “It’s not unreasonable for those workers to think that they now have to donate to his campaign in order to continue or advance their careers.”

Mattei, the former federal prosecutor who was chief of the financial fraud and public corruption unit, said he would defer to SEEC on a legal determination.

While home addresses for many public employees can be obtained through Freedom of Information requests, those for police officers are exempt due to safety concerns. SEEC has ruled that improper use of public resources, including information, are election violations, but Brandi again declined to comment.

Republican Tim Herbst, Trumbull’s first selectman, also issued a statement that called Drew’s letter “abhorrent.”

“If you are unable to resist the impulse to misuse your office to advance your own political fortunes, then you are not fit to hold the highest office in this state,” Herbst said. He said he was “particularly troubled” by Drew’s use of police officers’ home addresses.

msavino@record-journal.com 203-317-2266 Twitter: @reporter_savino

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