Stephen Casey, Democratic candidate for Dist. 50, has not violated the Hatch Act, according to a ruling by the Office of Special Counsel in Washington, DC, dispelling Rep. Jon Brien's (D-Dist. 50) claim that his run was illegal.
Brien (D-Dist. 50) filed a Hatch Act complaint against Casey Sept. 27, claiming he violated the law as a candidate working for the Woonsocket Fire Department, which accepts federal funding for training.
The Hatch Act limits political activities of federal employees on and off duty. Casey's campaign, which won against Brien by a 52-vote majority, might have violated the Hatch Act if his job as a firefighter directly benefited from federal funding.
But on Tuesday, Leslie J. Gogan, an attorney with the Hatch Act Unit of the Office of Special Counsel in Washington, DC, issued a ruling putting Casey in the clear.
“Office of Special Counsel finds that you do not have duties in connection with federally funded programs and activities. As such, you do not fall within the Hatch Act’s jurisdiction. Accordingly, the Hatch Act does not prohibit you from being a candidate for public office in the partisan elections at issue” Gogan wrote.
Gogan said that since Casey hasn't applied for and doesn't administer any of the grants the Woonsocket Fire Department has received, he isn't in violation of the Hatch Act. She wrote that even though Casey has received overtime pay that was funded through a federal grant, he hasn't been paid from that grant since May 2012. Casey has been a candidate since June 27.
"Additionally, as long as you refrain from participating in any of the department's federally funded overtime shifts, you will remain outside of the Act's jurisdiction," Gogan wrote.
“From the beginning, I felt this was a claim without merit that was issued to distract Woonsocket voters from matters we should be addressing to help move the city forward. Since winning the primary election in September, I have continued walking door-to-door, and talking to constituents to find out their greatest concerns. This has been and will continue to be my focus through Nov 6,” Casey wrote in a statement about the ruling.
"The only real abuse of taxpayer dollars was the wasted time and money spent on investigating this frivolous claim," Casey said in the release.
The ruling also removes the possibility of a special election taxpayers might have had to pay for if Brien's complaint was found to have merit.