CIVIC CENTER — A staffer for Councilman Jumaane Williams either violated conflict-of-interest rules — or was just plain sloppy — when he sent a campaign email during work hours last week, according to conflict of interest guidelines and government watchdogs.
Michael Twomey, legislative director for Williams, sent out an email May 2 announcing his boss’s campaign announcement this Tuesday, a joint event that also includes a state-of-the-district speech by Williams.
The email was sent from Twomey’s personal Gmail account and included a note that it had been paid for by Williams’ campaign. But according to a screenshot of the email obtained by DNAinfo New York, the email arrived in recipients' inboxes at 3:25 p.m., smack dab in the middle of normal work hours on a Tuesday.
While city employees can and often do conduct campaign work on their personal time, any political work during normal business hours — including a campaign email sent on a weekday afternoon — appears to conflict with the edict against using city resources to conduct campaign work, according to a memo sent to City Council staffers by the Council’s Office of General Counsel.
Those guidelines are in place to prevent public employees from using taxpayer-funded time to carry out political work, according to Dick Dadey, executive director of the government watchdog Citizens Union.
“You’d need to know if that staffer actually did it on their own free time, but that would be hard to justify when you’re supposed to be working a normal seven-hour day,” Dadey said. “I would describe this as sloppiness and a possible infraction, but a more sustained level of sloppiness, on a more repeated basis, could be more serious.”
The city's Conflict of Interest Board declined to comment on the specific case, but their memo to City Council staffers, dated March 27, said the board’s rules make it clear that use of staff time for political activities is expressly forbidden, as it constitutes using taxpayer-funded time to campaign for a candidate.
“COIB has explicitly stated that there is zero-tolerance for use of City resources for political and campaign purposes,” the memo read. “The ban on use of Council resources for political and campaign purposes is absolute.”
A spokeswoman for Williams did not respond to multiple requests for comment.