The State Ethics Commission has found Democratic Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin benefited politically from early voting signs and voter information booklets created by this office.
The commission said in a letter Friday the 2018 signs and booklets prominently featured Galvin's name, providing him with free publicity during his reelection bid.
The commission said the benefits to Galvin from the inclusion of his name on the signs and the free publicity in the information booklet were unwarranted and there was "reasonable cause" to believe Galvin violated the state's conflict of interest law.
Galvin, the chief elections official for Massachusetts, said the commission is relying on what he called a "novel and in my view somewhat twisted interpretation of the law" to reach its conclusion.
He said the information in the voter information booklet that included his name was cut and pasted from the 2016 voter booklet to fill an empty space. Galvin was not up for election in 2016.
"I had no involvement in it," Galvin said of the decision to include the information that highlighted the work of securities division of his office. "The idea that somehow that was contrived to effect the outcome of the 2018 election was untrue."
The commission noted that the words "Secretary Galvin's Office" appeared a dozen times on one page in the booklet. The same page also included examples of how the securities division had helped victims of investment fraud under the heading "If you have been the victim of investment fraud, Secretary Galvin's office might be able to help."
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Galvin said the signs referred to by the Ethics Commission were requested by local elections officials to help direct voters to polling locations. He said his name was small.
The commission said the bottom fifth of the signs included Galvin's full name directly above the words "Secretary of the Commonwealth."
"The idea that somehow these signs which were directional were somehow a political sign is absurd," Galvin said, noting that by law his name and title must appear on the top of every ballot.
He was not fined. Instead the commission issued a public letter explaining its findings.
The state's conflict of interest law prohibits public employees from using their official positions to obtain valuable benefits that are not properly available to them.
Galvin easily defeated Republican Anthony Amore and Green-Rainbow candidate Juan Sanchez to win reelection.