Like the majority of his constituents, we’re shocked and disappointed to learn that state Sen. Dean Tran has been severely disciplined by a Senate panel for violating several campaign and ethics laws during his 2018 re-election campaign.
Tran, a Fitchburg Republican and former city councilor who represents the 11-community Worcester-Middlesex District, was removed from his position as Senate Assistant Minority Whip Thursday afternoon. He’s also been barred from any personal contact with his staff for the remainder of his term.
This decision, rendered by the Senate Committee on Ethics, alleges that the expectation to help his political efforts was so pervasive within Tran’s Senate office that his campaign manager had threatened at least one staffer with being fired if the employee didn’t work on Tran’s 2020 re-election campaign.The ethics committee determined that Tran not only violated Senate rules but also likely violated state campaign finance and conflict-of-interest laws, according to the report.
The Senate referred its findings to the Office of Campaign and Political Finance and the state Ethics Commission.
Senate Rule 10A bars members from employing staffers for work beyond their specific duties: “No member, officer, or employee shall employ anyone from state funds who does not perform tasks which contribute to the work of the Senate and which are commensurate with the compensation received; and no officer or full time employee of the Senate shall engage in any outside business activity during regular business hours, whether the Senate is in session or not.”
Tran responded to panel’s actions through Facebook: “This is politics, when they cannot win by attacking you personally (2017) or your record (2018), they will use the internal process to their advantage and find you guilty through anonymous letter and hearsay. This is why good people do not enter politics. Will I let them win this year? Absolutely not! I will continue to work hard for the people I represent.”
Tran’s hearsay reference alludes to the fact that two unsigned letters sent to Senate President Karen E. Spilka claiming that Tran’s staff was working on his campaign during office hours prompted the Senate probe.
According to the newspaper, shortly after the news of Tran being disciplined broke, Lunenburg’s John J. Cronin, 30, a Democrat, announced his bid for Tran’s Senate seat. According to his statement, Cronin, a Leominster native, graduated from West Point and served two tours in Afghanistan.
It’s difficult not to conclude that Tran violated several Senate canons, which that Senate panel thoroughly verified before making its pronouncement.
Tran can claim he’s the victim of a political hit, but by his actions, that hit appears self-inflicted.
There’s probably a gray area where staffers’ constituent duties intersect with a lawmaker’s campaign activities, but the findings here spell out a systematic cross pollination of those two interests.
However, what we don’t need are any more Democrats in the Senate, where they already hold a 34-4 advantage.
When Tran won the December 2017 special Senate election to serve the remainder of Jennifer Flanagan’s term, he vowed to represent the district honestly and with integrity.
We advise the senator to do exactly that for the balance of his term, so that he can regain the confidence and trust of the voters who put their faith in him.