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Union Files Complaint With Middletown Council Over Drew Campaign

City union leaders say an employee with a recent complaint against Mayor Daniel Drew has been getting donation requests from Drew’s gubernatorial campaign to her work email, and are seeking a council investigation to determine whether rules have been violated.

In a plea to the council sent late Wednesday afternoon, management union President Geen Thazhampallath said school Human Resources Manager Michele DiMauro, who also has a pending gender discrimination grievance in addition to her complaint about the mayor, has been receiving campaign emails for months.

Thazhampallath said the union discovered the repeated donation requests while officials were preparing to file a grievance on DiMauro’s behalf.

“The find of information/data includes a year-long, list-serve barrage of campaign solicitations being sent directly to DiMauro’s workplace email at the Middletown BOE without her consent or request or self-subscription,” he wrote to the council.

He said the emails were from a variety of senders, and all were seeking support for Drew’s campaign.

“Regardless of their exact source, we fear, that these unwelcome solicitations to DiMauro may have been an effort to entrap, discredit, endanger the employment of, intimidate, discriminate against and/or harass DiMauro based on her political affiliations or associations,” Thazhampallath wrote.

In a response Thursday morning, Drew blasted the union’s tactics and said if there is a campaign complaint, it should be referred to the State Elections Enforcement Commission.

“You have now made a series of very serious and baseless allegations without any proof and you have shared them with the Common Council in what I can only assume is an effort to force a settlement to your grievance that you find favorable,” Drew wrote.

He said he was not aware DiMauro was one of “tens of thousands” of people who regularly receive campaign emails. The email address was apparently picked up when a contractor scraped contact information from more than 2,400 of Drew’s LinkedIn connections to build a mailing list.

“I didn’t even know she was on the list until Geen sent the letter,” Drew said Friday in an interview with The Courant.

He said email addresses with the .gov domain were removed at the beginning of the campaign, but Middletown school emails end in .org. The issue is apparently the same problem Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin had last week after he announced forming a gubernatorial exploratory committee.

Bronin’s campaign said its email blast seeking campaign contributions went to about 50 school district employees, who have .org email addresses, who were included on a list left over from his 2015 run for mayor.

In his response to the union, Drew said several teachers were apparently also on the list gathered from LinkedIn connections. The campaign is having them removed from the list, he said.

Council party leaders said they are preparing a resolution to be considered at the Jan. 2 council meeting that would authorize hiring a consultant to investigate the union’s claims. DiMauro filed a complaint with the city Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity Management last week accusing Drew of personally intervening in a job description review process and preventing a salary upgrade.

Drew said he was not a part of the job description review.

Council Democratic Majority Leader Thomas Serra said the council is pursuing an investigation “solely on the request itself, we are not going to determine anything until the investigation comes forward.”

Republican Majority Leader Sebastian Giuliano said it’s not clear what the council could do with an investigation once it’s complete, but said there is no choice but to seek neutral outside review since some of the complaints involve the legal office.

“I’m looking at, was there a systematic failure here that allowed something to happen that should not have happened?” Giuliano said. “In this case, one of the offices of the city that might help us is one of the offices being complained about.”

The State Elections Enforcement Commission is already investigating Drew’s campaign after complaints over a September fundraising letter that asked city employees to donate $100 to fund his run for governor. The complaints allege it was illegal for Drew to directly solicit support from his subordinates.

Drew admitted that he requested the list of employee addresses from the city human resources office, which included home addresses of police officers and firefighters. State freedom of information laws make it illegal for agencies to disclose addresses of police and fire personnel.

Drew apologized, and called the incident an “error in judgment.” He pledged to refund donations and institute policies preventing disclosures in the future.

Unions said their members felt pressured to donate, but Drew said he did not intend to coerce anyone into contributing.

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