Josh Zakim ripped Bill Galvin, but he also got campaign help from public staff
City Councilor Josh Zakim has repeatedly denounced his primary opponent, Secretary of State William F. Galvin, for allowing public employees to file campaign paperwork on the longtime incumbent’s behalf while drawing a full day’s pay, calling it “unethical” and “unacceptable.”
But public records show that Zakim, 34, has also benefited from his own public employees assisting him politically, and, like Galvin, during normal business hours.
On 11 occasions during Zakim’s reelection for the council last year, a member of his taxpayer-funded staff filed nomination papers at Boston City Hall on behalf of his campaign, documents show.
Daniel Sibor, who has since left Zakim’s council office, and Nicholas Carter, another council aide, each visited the Boston Election Department on weekdays over three weeks in May 2017. They always visited between 8 a.m. and 4:35 p.m., and in nearly every instance, the Zakim staffer left his City Hall extension or the phone number for Zakim’s council office as their contact information.
Zakim, in a statement, said both staffers used personal time to file signatures in each instance, and argued that the demands of the council’s work, including “a lot of evening meetings,” meant neither worked a traditional 9-to-5 schedule. His campaign also said it was the staffers’ prerogative to perform such tasks and they were never asked to do so by Zakim.
“I have always demanded that public employees in my office do not campaign on the public’s time,” Zakim said. “This is a practice I’ll continue insisting upon when I become secretary of state.”
A total of 19 employees in Galvin’s office have filed signatures for his campaign at local clerks offices around Greater Boston and beyond. In many instances, workers did so while drawing a full day of regular pay from their taxpayer-funded job, a potential violation of ethics rules.
Galvin has since asked one of his top deputies to lead an internal review of the employees, and his spokeswoman said that any employee who “improperly completed the time sheet” would face disciplinary action.
But Zakim and other challengers have roundly criticized Galvin, and Zakim has repeatedly called for an outside agency to investigate the practice under Galvin, a six-term Brighton Democrat and the state’s chief elections officer.
“That office must be unimpeachable when it comes to integrity, when it comes to ethics,” Zakim said Monday during a State House press conference he called to roast Galvin.
“This is unacceptable for any public employee,” Zakim said in a statement released at the conference.
Public employees are not specifically barred from doing political work, but they’re not allowed to perform such tasks while on the public clock. Elected officials also are not allowed to “use public resources for election-related political purposes,” according to the State Ethics Commission.
The Globe had reviewed paperwork from nearly 40 local clerks in recent weeks, covering nominations filed for the 2018 election. It did not find any instances of Zakim’s public staff submitting or retrieving paperwork for his campaign for secretary of state.
But that was not the case last year, when he fended off a challenge to his District 8 council seat. Zakim staffers were regular visitors to the Election Department for weeks, including on May 23, when Sibor and Carter both visited — once just before noon and the other about 3½ hours later.
First elected in 2013, Zakim later won reelection in November by 35 percentage points to again represent Back Bay, Beacon Hill, Fenway, Kenmore Square, Mission Hill, Audubon Circle, and the West End.
Jon Tapper, a Zakim campaign spokesman, said he could not provide any payroll records to show the two workers’ schedules because Zakim’s office, like that of other councilors, does not use time sheets to track their hours.
Zakim, in his statement, emphasized that he’s always leaned on a team of volunteers and paid campaign staff, including this year. “They have been invaluable to my success,” Zakim said.
Asked earlier Monday if any of his City Hall staffers were helping his campaign, Zakim said they were not, before clarifying that he believes there have been times but always on a “volunteer basis, after hours or on the weekend.”
He also said he didn’t believe any staff had taken time off from their job specifically to help his campaign for the Sept. 4 primary.
“Certainly not during the signature process,” he said.