The U.S. Office of Special Counsel enforces the Hatch Act, a federal law that regulates all campaigns where the office of the elected received federal money. The Henry County Budget shows the Henry County Sheriff’s Office has received nearly $167,000 in federal money over the past two fiscal years. According to the Danville Register & Bee, Richard Painter, a legal ethics expert with the University of Minnesota’s school of law, and the former Chief Ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush, says that would likely make Henry County Sheriff Lane Perry subject to the Hatch Act. The law forbids state or local employees from using their office to support a candidate, “including official email, stationery, office supplies, or other equipment or resources.” It’s also against the law for elected officials to ask subordinates to volunteer for their campaign.
On Tuesday, April 9, 2019, at 10:33 AM, Captain Wayne Davis with the Henry County Sheriff’s Office, sent out the following email:
“Sheriff Lane Perry will be conducting a press conference today, April 9th at 3:00pm. This will be held at the Henry County Sheriff’s Office, 3250 Kings Mountain Rd., Martinsville, VA.
All media outlets are invited and encouraged to attend. We look forward to your attendance.”
According to the Martinsville Bulletin, six media outlets went to the announcement, “anticipating updates on a fatal house fire or a homicide when, instead, Perry announced his bid for reelection.” Although the ruse might not have been illegal, law enforcement intentionally tricking the media could be considered unethical.
Perry told the Register & Bee he knew of the Hatch Act and “has attended seminars on the law.” Danville City Sheriff Mike Mondul, who attended the announcement and endorsed Perry, said the event “does not violate the Hatch Act” justifying him using his own department’s resources and time during normal business hours because he “did not have any other business in Danville that it conflicted with.”
If Perry were to be charged and it was determined he violated the Hatch Act, the penalty could include removing him from office, or forfeiting federal funds the Sheriff’s Department has received.