Court clerk’s campaign violated law, pays $2K

The campaign committee of Maura Hennigan, the clerk of the Suffolk County criminal court system and a JP resident, violated campaign finance law last year and had to pay back $2,000, the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance ruled on April 17.

Several of Hennigan’s court employees labeled envelopes intended for sending out her political campaign materials, with the work done in the downtown court building during the workday on Nov. 22, 2011, according to an OCPF letter sent to the clerk and obtained by the Gazette. Such political work by public employees violates state campaign finance laws, according to OCPF.

“The activities did not comply with the campaign finance law,” said OCPF spokesperson Jason Tait in a Gazette interview. He said that Hennigan already paid the $2,000 restitution, which pays back the court for the employees’ time and covers OCPF costs.

“[I] accept responsibility. I’m the boss,” Hennigan told the Gazette last week, adding that court employees will receive training in campaign finance law. “I certainly regret that it happened. I already paid the [$2,000].”

But she also distanced herself from the violation, saying she was not involved and was unaware of the employees’ actions. At the same time, Hennigan declined to explain OCPF’s finding that she had ordered the campaign envelopes to be delivered to the courthouse from JP by a campaign volunteer.

“I can’t comment…because I start getting into personnel issues,” Hennigan said, citing employee confidentiality policies. “[The OCPF letter] doesn’t say I told them to bring [the envelope boxes] upstairs.”

Hennigan, who previously served as a Boston city councilor, repeatedly referred to a written statement she issued last week. It read: “I have an impeccable record of more than 30 years. I was not present nor did I instruct employees to engage in this activity. I have cooperated fully with OCPF since I first learned of the incident and agreed to reimburse the Commonwealth for the employees’ time. I regret that this occurred and will be providing training to all members of my staff on campaign finance laws”

OCPF said in its letter that it began investigating Hennigan’s campaign based on a complaint from an unnamed source that court employees had put campaign materials in envelopes for Hennigan. The investigation found that was not true, but that the employees had placed labels on the envelopes.

“You have stated that on November 22, 2011, you asked a campaign volunteer, who is not a public employee, to pick up Hennigan Committee campaign envelopes from a print shop in Jamaica Plain,” OCPF wrote to Hennigan. “You instructed this volunteer to call the Clerk’s Office upon his arrival at the courthouse.”

The letter goes on to say that two court employees met the worker and brought several boxes of envelopes into the 15th floor conference room in the Clerk’s Office. Up to five unnamed court employees then worked there to label the envelopes. The labeled envelopes were taken to a private vehicle elsewhere.

The letter says nothing about Hennigan’s whereabouts during the envelope delivery and labeling and says some of the testimony it heard was “inconsistent.” Hennigan was not personally cited by OCPF.

Asked by the Gazette if she indeed had the campaign envelopes delivered to the courthouse, Hennigan said, “That’s what it says in the letter. What they quoted me as saying is correct.”

She referred to her written statement and cited personnel confidentially when asked to explain her intent in having the envelopes delivered there. “I can’t” comment further, she said.

Hennigan noted that that $2,000 payment was restitution and “technically not a fine.” She noted that she cooperated with OCPF about the case and said the resolution was “worked out between us.’

“We anticipate, and expect, that the guidance in this letter will ensure future compliance with the campaign finance law,” said the OCPF letter, which was signed by OCPF Director Michael Sullivan.

Hennigan is running for re-election this year and is being opposed by former employee Robert Dello Russo.

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