Saturday, Dec 20, 2014

Election flap costs St. Pete assistant attorney her job

BY CHRISTOPHER O’DONNELL
Tribune staff

Published:   |   Updated: August 5, 2013 at 09:04 PM

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An assistant city attorney who used her work email to talk about her husband’s campaign for City Council opted today to retire following a city investigation.

Pamela Cichon, 57, sent about two dozen personal emails from her work account, including several that discussed media stories about her husband, Steve Galvin, a candidate for City Council District 8, City Attorney John Wolfe said.

City policy prohibits employees from using work equipment and email accounts to advocate for any political candidate or issue. Cichon, who has worked for the city since 1989, may also have violated a state law that prohibits local government employees from participating in any political campaign for an elective office while on duty. Violating that law is a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by as much as one year in prison and a $1,000 fine.

“If you’re using city equipment and on city time you’re not supposed to be doing that,” Wolfe said. “It’s against our policy.”

Cichon opted to retire effective Thursday, Wolfe said. He declined to answer whether she would have been fired otherwise.

“We had a talk; she volunteered to retire,” he said.

The investigation, first reported by SaintPetersBlog, focused on an email Cichon sent to Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long on July 29 complaining about the media coverage after reports her husband fathered a child out of wedlock in California eight years ago and agreed to pay child support after being named in a paternity suit.

Cichon, who earned $114,800 per year, said she had done nothing wrong and described her email to Long as a private message to someone she has known for many years.

“People send private email from their work all the time,” Cichon said. “The context of it was certainly not campaigning.”

In the email, Cichon claimed that Amy Foster, regarded as the favorite in the District 8 race, was behind the reports, a claim Foster denies.

“I had no idea about the child or the paternity suit,” Foster said.

Three days after Cichon sent the email, Long publicly endorsed Foster.

“To disclaim fatherhood, whether it was a one-night stand or a long-term relationship, is a measurement of character,” Long said today. “Some things are indefensible, and I happen to think that’s one of them.”

Galvin, a musician who makes a living recording jingles for toys, said he did not know how the publicity about him or his wife would affect his campaign.

“I feel strongly she hasn’t done anything that should jeopardize her position with the city,” he said. “Pam felt safe talking to a friend. That’s all it was — one friend to another sharing the frustrations of the circumstances.”

By retiring, Cichon will be eligible for accrued sick pay, worth 25 percent of her daily pay rate and will be able to continue to get coverage through the city’s health insurance plan, Wolfe said.

codonnell@tampatrib.com

(727) 215-7654

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