Heroux repurposing mayoral emails for campaign

Some see ethics violation, but he says he’s doing nothing wrong

ATTLEBORO MAYOR PAUL HEROUX, in what may be a violation of the state’s conflict of interest law, is pulling the addresses off the emails he receives in his official mayoral capacity and using them as part of campaign efforts.

The practice came to light when a reporter submitted a public records request to Heroux and subsequently received a six-page email from his campaign committee that recounted his activities as mayor the prior two weeks, provided links to articles in which he was mentioned, featured photos of him, and invited recipients to “Buy Paul’s book on the Middle East.”

Heroux acknowledged he added the reporter’s email address to his campaign email database. “I added your name to my weekly email. I do that with virtually everyone who sends me an email,” Heroux said.  “I send that out to about 4,000 people every week.”

 Heroux said there is nothing inappropriate with what he is doing. He noted that he followed the same practice when he was a state representative from 2013 through 2018. He said he asked the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee in 2013 whether it was permissible to use emails that way and was told that as long as he wasn’t soliciting campaign donations there was no problem.

Attleboro Mayor Paul Heroux

Brian Dempsey, who was chairman of House Ways and Means in 2013 and is now a lobbyist, could not be reached for comment.

“There’s nothing wrong with using campaign funds to promote the government work I do,” Heroux said. “The reverse is not true. There is a problem with using government resources to advance my campaign.”

But some argue Heroux is using government resources – in the form of email addresses he collects as mayor – to advance his campaign. The state’s conflict of interest law prohibits public officials from “using … their official positions to secure for themselves … unwarranted privileges of substantial value that are not properly available to similarly situated individuals.”

Former state inspector general Gregory Sullivan, who is now research director at the Pioneer Institute in Boston, said he believes Heroux is violating the state’s conflict of interest law.

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“What the mayor is doing here puts any future campaign opponents at a significant disadvantage because they don’t have access to the email addresses,” Sullivan said. “The bottom line is you can’t use public resources for campaign purposes.  The ethics law is quite clear about that.”

The State Ethics Commission declined comment.