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Phila. Mayoral Candidates Warned About Fundraising E-Mails To City Workers

By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- The Nutter administration is warning the six candidates for mayor not to send solicitations for donations to the government e-mail accounts of city workers.

And they singled out one candidate -- Nelson Diaz -- for having done so.

The mayor's chief integrity officer, Hope Caldwell, sent a warning to all the candidates for mayor and City Council, reminding them that city workers cannot engage in political activity on the job.  She asked the campaigns not to send fundraising letters to the work-issued e-mail accounts of any city employees.

"We did this because we really didn't want city employees accidentally violating the political activity restrictions," Caldwell told KYW Newsradio. "They could accidentally violate the rules by forwarding those e-mails to (other) people, (or) by clicking 'donate' on the e-mail from a city computer during city time."




Caldwell said the issue came to her office's attention because of several such solicitations sent by the mayoral campaign of Nelson Diaz.  KYW Newsradio has learned that recipients of Diaz fundraising efforts included attorneys in the city's Law Department, which Diaz ran as city solicitor during the tenure of Mayor John Street.

Caldwell says the Diaz campaign violated no rules but should refrain nonetheless.

"By virtue of them sending the e-mails to city employees, they're technically not violating any rules, but it puts the employees in a difficult position, in an uncomfortable position.  We really didn't want to put anybody in a sticky situation, accidentally violating the ethics rules, and the best way to do that was to ask the campaigns to stop sending them to phila-dot-gov e-mail addresses," she said.

Barry Caro, spokesman for the Diaz for Mayor campaign, says they never received Caldwell's warning and were unaware of the issue.  He says the software used to send their solicitations includes a method to filter out any "dot-gov" addresses.

"We do everything that is possible for us to do as a campaign to prevent any fundraising solicitations to go to these e-mails," he said.  "Our e-mail system has an option to explicitly exclude dot-gov e-mails from solicitations.  That's an option that we take every time."

KYW Newsradio provided Caro examples of the e-mails sent to city workers in their accounts, and he did not dispute their validity.

Shane Creamer, executive director of the city's Board of Ethics, doesn't believe any new rules are needed to stem this practice, but he agrees with Caldwell that the campaigns should avoid it.

"I don't think you can regulate everything that needs to be regulated or prohibited. But having said that, there are many things that the law may permit people to do that doesn't make it a good idea to do it. And I think this is an example of that," he told KYW Newsradio.



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