By: By Tammy Daniels On: 12:23PM / Wednesday July 14, 2010
The sheriff's office isn't campaigning — for anyone. That's the word from Berkshire County Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano Jr., who felt compelled to issue a statement on Monday clarifying the issue after more than a few calls from county residents who thought his office is stumping for candidate Thomas N. Bowler.
Massimiano, who is stepping down at the end of his current term after 32 years in office, said he's also reminded his staff that while they are free to participate in campaigns, they do so as individuals and must not represent themselves as campaigning in any official capacity.
Robert McDonough, spokesman for the sheriff's office, said several recent calls brought the matter to the sheriff's attention. In the statement released by the sheriff's office, those callers "said they have been approached by workers for the Thomas Bowler campaign who claimed to be representing the sheriff's office. At least one resident reported feeling she was being intimidated into posting a Bowler campaign sign on her property."
Bowler's sister and campaign manager Donna Mattoon said on Tuesday she was baffled by the complaints.
"We can't keep lawn signs in stock," she said. "We don't have to force anyone to host a lawn sign - we're running out."
Mattoon said the campaign ordered 5,000 signs and only has about 500 left; so many people have contacted the campaign by phone, website and Facebook, "we're running around like crazy people lately" delivering signs. Plus, she added, Massimianio was still a candidate whem Bowler threw his hat in the ring, so why would he be stumping for her brother? "I don't think anybody is confused by that issue."
Massimiano has not endorsed either Bowler or his opponent Daniel E. Bosley at this time. The two Democrats will meet in a Sept. 14 primary that is expected to decide the winner of the office.
"I want people to understand that no one is out putting up signs on behalf of the sheriff's office," Massimiano said in the statement. "If you have been told that this office wants you to post a sign — for either candidate — please call and let me know. The situation will be taken care of."
Bowler, a Pittsfield Police detective, received the overwhelming backing of Local 297 of the International Brotherhood of Correctional Officers in late February; the local represents officers working in the Berkshire County House of Correction. He also was endorsed by the local police chiefs association and Berkshire District Attorney David F. Capeless.
His supporters are passionate — one got into a debate with Bosley at a forum for the candidates last month. Mattoon described the campaign as "joyful."
"People aren't being discouraged from campaigning zealously," said McDonough. But, he said, it's a violation of ethics for backers who misrepresent themselves.
Mattoon said she heard the sheriff's statement on the radio Tuesday morning. "I was stunned to see that someone felt intimidated into hosting a lawn sign.
"We would never want anyone to feel intimidated," she continued. "But if somebody's lines got crossed I'd love to know about it so we can fix it."
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