Staff members in the offices of our city councilors tend to support their bosses' campaigns, a sensible habit both for the philosophical reason that if they didn't like the boss's politics they wouldn't work in the office, and for the practical reason that if the voters turn the boss out of office, the staffers have to look for other work. It's prohibited, however, for councilors to run political campaigns from City Hall, and for staffers to work for political campaigns while on the city clock.
This means that if Councilor X's staffer wants to put in some time making calls in support of Councilor X's election bid, he or she has to sign off the city timeclock, leave the building, and go somewhere else (such as to the campaign office) to make those calls. The rule is simple -- don't campaign in City Hall or while on the public payroll. (Councilors themselves, who can't clock out from the public payroll, can campaign while on the public payroll, but can't campaign from City Hall.) It's also easy to fudge (for the candidates I favor) or break (for the candidates I oppose) the rule. "Who will notice if I close my door and make a campaign call on my cell phone?" must be a tempting question.
I was therefore pleased that on Monday an adviser was earnestly explaining the rules to one of this year's candidates, not just how to follow the rules (which is easy) but how to document that the candidate and his staff are following the rules. For example, he said, if a staffer is going to work on the campaign, she should not only leave the office but send an e-mail to document that she's using two hours of her vacation time to be away from the office. There will likely be a lot of e-mails.
I'm pleased to see this adherence to the campaign laws. However, it will generate a lot of paperwork (and the other candidates will likely ask to see the e-mails just to verify compliance). It might be simpler to provide that staff can have Friday afternoons off to work on the campaign