An email sent to the Valley Voice Friday, June 3 reported that fundraising activities took precedence over constituents in Assemblyman Devon Mathis’ Visalia and Sacramento offices.
The email was sent from Mathis’ Chief of Staff, Sean Doherty, to a half a dozen staff and family in May of 2015. It states:
“I just wanted to reiterate that until July 1 fundraising must take priority over ALL schedule requests and/or needs. We have multiple events in June and they are all important in order for us to hit our goals.
When considering and/or submitting requests please ask yourself, ‘does this forward our goal for the June 30th report.’ If it does not then please understand it will take second place to a fundraising opportunity.”
The Valley Voice reached out to one of the recipients of the email for comment. Because of fear of retaliation by Doherty, the recipient requested to remain anonymous.
The email recipient said that each time the email referred to “goals,” Doherty was referring to campaign fundraising goals. It was made very clear that staff was not to schedule any meetings or events with constituents unless those constituents intended on donating to Mathis’ campaign, according to the recipient.
When asked if it is unusual for assembly members to prioritize meetings and events with donors over constituents, the recipient said, “Yes it’s unusual. It’s unethical.”
“Concerning that email, that is something that would never have come out the office when I was Chief because it is borderline, if not outright, illegal,” Cole Azare, former Chief of Staff for Devon Mathis, told the Voice.
Azare stated it is borderline illegal because the office (Doherty) is directing state staff to do campaign work on state time.
“This is the law. Campaign work cannot be done on state time and nor can the state pay for the work,” Azare said.
“It’s also not ethical and actually illegal to direct state staff to schedule meetings with the assemblyman based on whether or not they are donors,” said Azare.
The email recipient pointed out that Doherty used his private email, and not his state email, because of concerns that the content might be illegal or unethical.
“You don’t just represent donors, you represent everyone.” said the recipient.
When Azare was Mathis’ Chief of staff, Sean Doherty was Mathis’ campaign manager. When Mathis fired Azare and hired Doherty as chief of staff Doherty hired his wife, Thanne Doherty as campaign manager.
Finally, Doherty sent the email to the staff and family because if Mathis doesn’t receive donations then Mrs. Doherty does not get paid. In December of 2015, Sean Doherty himself loaned the Mathis campaign $8400. That amount was eventually paid back after several months of successful campaigning.