Candidate’s name on ‘pooper scooper’ notice raises questions in Montague

  • Montague Town Hall. Staff File Photo/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 5/10/2022 7:08:51 PM
Modified: 5/10/2022 7:07:12 PM

MONTAGUE — A public notice from the Health Department has been recalled following concerns that it illegally endorsed a Board of Health candidate, Town Clerk Deb Bourbeau said at Monday’s Selectboard meeting.

The notice, which was sent as a press release to the Montague Reporter newspaper and was intended for future distribution via postcards around the community, was an educational statement on dog waste pickup and included signatures from both the Board of Health and Animal Inspector Kathy Burek. According to reporter Jeff Singleton, the Montague Reporter did not publish the notice due to concerns that Burek’s status as a current Board of Health candidate could render the document illegal.

Bourbeau said she contacted the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance to verify the legality of the release. The office confirmed it would “absolutely, without a doubt” be illegal to publish or distribute the notice with Burek’s name on it, Bourbeau told the Selectboard. Burek is one of four candidates running for a single three-year seat on the Board of Health. 

Bourbeau said Health Department officials were “taken aback” when she advised them of the state’s campaign and finance and ethics laws.

“Unbeknownst to them,” she said, “they didn’t know all this existed.”

The issue, Bourbeau explained, stems from Burek’s name placement serving as an inherent endorsement of her candidacy in the May 17 annual town election.

“The Board of Health told me that they had these cards about the pooper scooper law with Kathy’s name on them,” Bourbeau said at Monday’s Selectboard meeting. “I told them that they could not mail them out before the election because that would be using their name and their position with the Board of Health (to promote her) as a potential candidate.”

Health Director Daniel Wasiuk said there was no intentional wrongdoing on behalf of the department, explaining that inclusion of Burek’s name was related to her position as Montague’s animal inspector.

“As we know,” Wasiuk said, “Kathy Burek is our animal inspector and we’re using her position to get the word out.”

Selectboard Chair Rich Kuklewicz expressed confidence that the Health Department’s infringement on the law was simply an “oversight,” while also emphasizing the gravity of the situation as Monday’s discussion concluded.

“We all, as public officials, need to remember to keep ourselves impartial and not solicit for any candidate other than on our own personal time and with our own personal needs,” he said.

Upon the town’s request, Wasiuk said the department has removed Burek’s name from the public notice and will wait until after the town election on May 17 to send out the postcards.

“We are taking all appropriate steps to be in alignment with all applicable laws,” Wasiuk said. “There’s no malicious intent here at all.”

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-772-0261, ext. 261 or jmendoza@recorder.com.


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