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NEW: Providence Housing Attorney Violated Hatch Act While Running for State Rep.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

 

A staff attorney for the Providence Housing Authority violated the Hatch Act when she ran for a seat in the Rhode Island legislature earlier this year, according to a letter released by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel.

But Michelle Bergin, who lost her bid to unseat District 16 Representative Peter Palumbo by 68 votes in September’s Democratic primary, will not face any disciplinary action because the Office of Special Counsel previously gave her the go-ahead to run for office.

The Hatch Act prohibits those who are paid with, or have control over, federal funds from running for office.

“After investigating the allegations set forth in your complaint, we have determined that Ms. Bergin’s candidacy in the 2012 election for state representative was in violation of the Hatch Act,” the letter states. “However, because we had previously advised Ms. Bergin that her candidacy was not prohibited by the Act we have decided not to pursue disciplinary action on this matter and are closing the above-referenced file without further action.”

The complaint was lodged by Sean Pope, a Providence Housing Authority employee who earlier this year claimed the agency’s former executive director Stephen O’Rourke sexually harassed his wife while she worked at the Authority. O’Rourke would later resign, but maintains that he never harassed any of his female employees.

Bergin, a former Cranston City Councilor, did not respond to multiple requests for comment on this story.

Earlier this year, the Office of Special Counsel also found that failed State Senate candidate David Gorman violated the Hatch Act, but decided no further action was necessary. In Woonsocket, outgoing State Rep. Jon Brien filed a similar complaint after he lost his Democratic primary to Stephen Casey, but the Office of Special Counsel ruled that he was allowed to run and serve in the General Assembly.


 

Dan McGowan can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @danmcgowan.

 

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