Campaign Work On State Time, Plus A Firearm Safety Debate: Beacon Hill In 5

May 14, 2018

Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin's employees appear to have done some political work on state time. Facing criticism from his challengers, Galvin has launched an investigation.

A report in The Boston Globe says Galvin's employees were filing campaign paperwork on his behalf while still on the clock. It is Galvin's job to uphold and defend the integrity of the democratic process in the state.

Carrie Healy, NEPR: Will that investigation, and maybe its outcome, change anything?

Matt Murphy, State House News Service: It'll be interesting to see where this goes. As you mentioned, the Globe did some great reporting on this: they really went through, and found that a number of Galvin's employees were turning in these signature sheets, necessary to qualify for the ballot, during work hours.

One, it's not entirely unusual for state employees to do political work for their bosses, and two, it's not unusual for them to take time off in the middle of the day. But they do have to take time off, whether it's a half an hour, or half a day, to do this political work, or else they're in violation of state law.

Galvin's opponents say that this internal investigation is lacking, that this really should be an independent investigation by either the state auditor or the attorney general.

He has enjoyed a rather easy run of it for many years. He has a significant challenge this time around, and I think this raises a question of how much he does in fact lean on these people who work for him to do the political work necessary to mount a statewide campaign as well.

But that's not uncommon for lawmakers, though?

It's certainly not uncommon for people who work in someone's state office to then, on weekends ,go out gathering signatures, or do campaign work, making phone calls for their bosses. I mean, it happens all the time, and I think in some respects it makes a lot of sense.

I think the question with Galvin, who is not just a district politician, but a statewide elected official, when you look at his campaign, you have to wonder -- at least, we in the press don't really see much evidence: who is the campaign manager? Who is the communications person? Who is doing fundraising for him?

I mean, the kind of formal campaign apparatus, we don't see, and I think that's because Galvin has not really had much of a challenge for many years. His style of campaigning is one to kind of lean on incumbency, and dodge the kind of debates and stuff that you sometimes see in the more high-profile races for governor or Senate.

This is shining a spotlight on the fact that perhaps he kind of leans on these employees. And that is fine as long as they're doing it above board, and taking off the requisite time, and not using state resources. We'll see where the internal investigation goes now.

Before the end of the month, the House will be debating that "red flag" gun bill sponsored by Marjorie Decker of Cambridge. Can you walk us through that bill? There's an alternate proposal out there as well.

In a nutshell, the Speaker [Bob DeLeo] has signaled that he's going to call a vote on what we're calling the red flag gun bill, or the ERPO bill -- the extreme risk protective order bill. Essentially, this would allow a household member to petition the courts if they believe someone is a risk to themselves or the public, and have the courts temporarily take away their guns.

The gun rights activist very much opposed to this on two fronts, really. One, they see it as redundant with a 2014 law. Two, they're worried about parts of this bill that would allow a court to take away someone's license, essentially ex parte. They wouldn't even have to appear in court. They're concerned what this would do for due process rights, and they're really trying to shift the focus away from firearms and onto mental health.

Rep. Joseph McKenna of Webster, along with 24 lawmakers, including five Democrats, have signed onto a letter that McKenna sent to House leadership, along with an alternative proposal that would really put the focus on judges committing people to mental health treatment if they pose such a risk. Accompanying that, if they are committed to a mental health treatment facility by the courts, then people like police chiefs as well as the RMV, then anyone else who issues these kind of professional or firearm licenses, could review someone's suitability to continue to hold them, but that would not be the focus.

Keep up here with Beacon Hill In 5.

Correction: An earlier version of this web story (not the radio version) incorrectly stated that Secretary of State William Galvin had been accused of doing political work on state time. The allegations, however, involve Galvin's staff -- not the secretary himself.