ST. PETERSBURG — Pamela Cichon, an assistant city attorney, sent her husband, Steve Galvin, emails about his campaign for city council during her working hours, emails released Friday by the city show.
She gave him advice on campaign material, critiqued his speeches, corrected his grammar and even advised him on campaign buttons, all using her city email account.
That violated a city policy prohibiting employees from using work equipment and email accounts to advocate for any political candidate or issue, city officials said. Cichon on Monday decided to retire after the city launched an investigation into her conduct.
The city released about 150 pages of emails sent to and from Cichon between May 2 and July 29 that deal with Galvin’s campaign for the District 8 seat on city council. It includes emails to Galvin’s former campaign manager, Johnny Bardine, discussing campaign strategy.
“It’s campaigning on city time with city resources,” said City Attorney John Wolfe, who conducted the review of Cichon’s emails. “I think it’s against the policy.”
Wolfe would not say if Cichon would have been fired if she had not retired. Cichon said she decided to retire before the issue came up.
Cichon, who began working for the city in 1989, described the investigation as a “kneejerk reaction” and said the emails were private messages sent to her husband, family and friends. She said most were sent late at night after her regular work day or during her lunch hour.
Some of the emails were sent after 6 p.m. but many were sent during regular business hours, a review of the emails shows.
She said it was regular practice for city workers to use their work email accounts for personal messages because they are not allowed to log onto regular email services such as gmail. She also disagreed with the city’s characterization of the emails as evidence that she campaigned for her husband during work time.
“I was not campaigning during business hours if I’m not phone banking from my work, not soliciting funds, not soliciting votes,” she said. “I’m simply giving my husband my opinion about something. It’s a private conversation I could have been having over the phone with him.”
In reply to a May 28 email asking if Galvin was accepting contributions, Cichon wrote “Absolutely! All contributions greatly accepted,” and listed the website where donations could be made by Paypal.
In another email sent July 15 at 5:15 p.m., Cichon thanks someone for making a donation to her husband’s campaign.
A June 24 email sent to Ruth’s List questioned why the nonprofit group that provides support for women seeking office endorsed Galvin’s opponent, Amy Foster.
She also sent an email to a family member on June 11 asking for a donation. “Even a $20 donation would be nice,” she wrote.
The emails came to light after Cichon sent one to Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long on July 29, complaining about media coverage of her husband after reports surfaced that he fathered a child out of wedlock in California eight years ago and agreed to pay child support after being named in a paternity suit. The email was sent at 11:35 a.m.
Cichon said she is comfortable with retiring and is looking forward to her first vacation since her honeymoon seven years ago.
“I’ve always had other plans,” she said. “Better to start now than later.”