Richard Barry statement regarding DA’s stolen credit card and other ethics and campaign finance issues.
Cotuit, MA – August 15 2014: Richard Barry, candidate for Cape and Islands District Attorney, discusses the use of public resources for campaign purposes and the consistent questions about the current DA “blurring the lines.”
While murders remain unsolved, an opiate and heroin epidemic is claiming lives, destroying families and diminishing our quality of life on Cape Cod and the Islands, the current District Attorney’s focus appears once again to be on politics not addressing these important issues. As District Attorney I will change that focus to where it should be, working for the people of Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, not for political friends.
On August 1, 2014 a young woman was in court and admitted to stealing Michael O’Keefe’s campaign credit card number. The circumstances once again call into question the ethical implications of the separation of campaign and official functions of publicly-funded resources at his disposal as District Attorney. Is Mr. O’Keefe’s executive assistant, who is being paid with our tax dollars, also working on his political campaign during the workday?
According to a police report filed by the Massachusetts State Police unit assigned to the Cape & Islands District Attorney’s Office, his executive assistant was reviewing Mr. O’Keefe’s campaign mail when she discovered the unauthorized use of his campaign credit card. The report states that she told them “[T]hat the only time the credit card was used recently was to reserve a function room at Turner’s Yard and Gastropub in the Town of Pembroke. She gave the credit card number over the phone, to event planner Yasmine Zakhary, on Wednesday 5/8/13.”
The police report shows the assistant was familiar with the campaign account, “this credit card is not frequently used and the unauthorized purchases immediately stood out to her.”
Are employees in the DA’s Office working on Mr. O’Keefe’s campaign or performing campaign functions at taxpayer expense? Of course an employee can claim these duties were performed on lunch hours or free time, but should any resources in the DA’s office be used for campaign purposes? Use of copiers, telephones, mail expenses, and any public resources should not be used for campaign purposes.
Furthermore, this case was handled by the State Police Detective unit assigned to the DA’s Office which investigates homicides and serious crimes that the DA may prosecute. That unit enlisted the services of Plymouth County DA’s Detective Unit which also performs the same functions for that office. When we find our credit card numbers have been stolen, are these services available to us? Is this a wise and proper use of these resources?
A double homicide on Central Avenue in Falmouth remains unsolved. The 1993 Murder of Herb Dixon in Cotuit is still unsolved. Most recently a mutilated body in Sandwich has not been identified, and that murder remains unsolved. Detectives assigned to investigate murders should be investigating murders and not directed to investigate matters usually handled by local police departments or other units of the state police who regularly deal with these matters.
Recently, the dual use of Mr. O’Keefe’s Facebook page for both campaign and official purposes was called into question and apparently complaints were filed with the Ethics Committee and Office of Campaign and Political Finance. As an incumbent district attorney, he must be familiar with the rules that apply to websites – incumbent candidates must have separate websites for campaign and official uses. Although the laws may not have caught up to social media, shouldn’t the District Attorney understand that any social media should follow the same rules?
As District Attorney I will make sure staff members are not using public resources to work on any political campaigns or political fundraising. I understand how the rest of us see this as a blurring of the lines. As we were told by the Ethics Committee when I was a town councilor, even if it’s not a violation of ethics or campaign finance laws, if any action appears to blur those lines, it is best to avoid it thus averting the questions and appearance of violations.
Questions about staff performing campaign duties only came to light because of the stolen credit card; the police report was available only because the thief was caught and charged. How often do these things happened, outside the public view? Several years ago Mr. O’Keefe had a gun stolen during a robbery at his house in a gated country club development in Sandwich. He could not produce a serial number for the gun.
But more important there were questions about whether Mr. O’Keefe even had a license to carry a gun.
Those questions have yet to be answered because the robbery was never solved and no one was charged. The closest anyone came to an answer was when a reporter asked the Sandwich Chief of Police if Mr. O’Keefe had a license. His answer was simply, “He does now.” This issue was only discovered because a crime was, again, reported against Mr. O’Keefe.
One further note of interest:
The Cape Cod Times article written about Mr. O’Keefe’s stolen credit card states that it was being used to book a fundraiser for Dan Conley, a Democratic candidate running for mayor of Boston. The cost of the booking was split with Plymouth County District Attorney Timothy Cruz, (whose detective unit helped with the investigation.) It’s interesting to see two Republicans paying for a fundraiser, at least one with his own campaign funds, for a Democratic candidate. Do the people who donate to Mr. O’Keefe’s campaign know how he uses his money?
There are too many questions and not enough answers.
It’s time for a change.
- Richard Barry
Copies of the police report: