NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

April 25, 2014

State: No culprit found in election investigation

Office of Campaign Finance unable to locate person responsible for anonymous flier, robocalls

NEWBURYPORT — The state Office of Campaign and Political Finance has completed its investigation into anonymous political mailings and robocalls that were used in last fall’s mayoral campaign, but the department was unable to identify a guilty party. It has concluded its investigation.

State and city officials indicated yesterday that the perpetrator was extremely savvy about using the Postal Service and the phone system to disseminate the unsigned political messages.

“Whoever did this had a very sophisticated knowledge of using the Postal Service, with bulk mail and with the phone,” City Clerk Richard Jones said. “The state office did a lot of work, and filed a very complete report.”

Michael J. Sullivan, director of the OCPF, said in the report, “The OCPF has concluded that a person or persons made substantial expenditures in excess of $250 relating to the election.

“Those expenditures should have been disclosed to the Newburyport city clerk. However, despite OCPF’s extensive review, this office has been unable to identify the person or persons responsible for those expenditures.”

City officials had asked Sullivan’s office to investigate unusual developments last fall, when Mayor Donna Holaday was engaged in a preliminary race against City Councilor Greg Earls and City Councilor Dick Sullivan Jr.

In the final days leading up the September preliminary election, several sophisticated, anonymous tactics were used against Holaday. Fliers, using Newburyport school colors of maroon and gold, were mailed to homes across the city, and robocalls were delivered to landlines and cellphones, both urging residents not to vote for Holaday.

City officials, as well as the three mayoral candidates, decried the moves, and alleged a violation of state law, which requires those who finance political initiatives of more than $100 to file a statement and identify themselves.

Both the flier and robocalls focused on a key issue in the race, the central waterfront. The Newburyport Redevelopment Authority owns 4.2 acres now used for parking lots, and a plan to encourage commercial development there was a major issue in the campaign.

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