HANCOCK — Questions have arisen as to whether newly elected Hancock County Commissioner and rural mail carrier Antonio Blasi has violated the federal Hatch Act by running for partisan office.
The Hatch Act prohibits certain federal employees, including postal workers, from running for partisan office.
The purpose of the Hatch Act is to “keep partisan politics out of the federal workplace,” said Ann O’Hanlon, spokesman for the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, which investigates allegations of Hatch Act violations.
State Rep. Richard Malaby (R-Hancock) has filed complaints with Maine Secretary of State Charles Summers and the special counsel.
Malaby wrote Summers a letter stating that a Sept. 6, 2012, post office employee bulletin states postal employees may be candidates for public office in nonpartisan elections.
Hancock County commissioner candidates run from a party, whether Republican, Democrat or independent.
Blasi ran as a Democrat.
“I think that should probably preclude him from serving in office,” Malaby said. “Somebody missed it somewhere along the line. I’m not trying to be vindictive or anything, but there’s a reason for the law.”
Allegations of Hatch Act violations are common, according to O’Hanlon, and not much happens if someone is found to have violated the act.
“We send a warning letter and that’s about it,” O’Hanlon said.
The violator is not asked to stop serving in the office because it is the act of campaigning for partisan office that is the federal violation, she said.
“Serving in the office is not deemed a partisan activity in the same spirit as running,” O’Hanlon said. “That’s where the violation is — in the language of the statute.”
Blasi offered a prepared statement.
“I did not know about the Hatch Act stopping United States Postal Service employees from campaigning for county commissioner,” Blasi stated. “The USPS did not educate me that campaigning is not allowed by an employee of any agency receiving federal funds. It has not received federal funding since 1971.”
Blasi stated that the Republicans should have filed a complaint while the campaign was in progress if they thought there was a problem.
“My campaign literature and website listed as one of my qualifications to govern part-time rural mail carrier,” he stated. “Many voters supported me for being one. I won the election.”
“If I had to choose between my post office job and my commissioner position, I would rather be Hancock County commissioner,” Blasi stated.
Blasi ran against Fred Ehrlenbach of Trenton, who ran as a Republican.
Blasi will replace County Commissioner Fay Lawson, who did not seek re-election.
Her term expires at the end of December. She represents District 3, which includes Franklin, Hancock, Lamoine, Trenton, Bar Harbor, Mount Desert, Tremont, Southwest Harbor, Cranberry Isles, Swan’s Island and Frenchboro.