Former Mass. Mayor Explains Using City Email for Ashley Madison Website

Former mayor used city email account for Ashley Madison website.

CHICOPEE, MA (WWLP) – The Ashley Madison website hack revealed thousands of email addresses that signed up for the site, which claims to connect people looking for affairs. Only on 22News, I-Team reporter Ryan Walsh spoke with Chicopee’s former Mayor Michael Bissonette, who admitted that he used his city email account to sign up in 2010.

The 22News I-Team went through dozens of his emails from when he was mayor, and found his email linked to not only the Ashley Madison site, but another dating site called Heart Detectives. We didn’t find anything more than “spam” or ads from those companies being sent to his city account.

Bissonnette is running for mayor again, against Mayor Richard Kos. Bissonnette was also accused of deleting all his emails during the mayoral transition, the Attorney General cleared Bissonette of any criminal wrongdoing in that case. Bissonette told the I-Team he only put his email on the site, and never paid for an account. He also was not married when he signed up.

Transcript of the entire interview with Michael Bissonnette:

(15,000 government and military emails were found in the Ashley Madison hack. Including yours. The only reason we’re talking about this is because it was your Chicopee.gov email. Why didn’t you use your personal email?)

“In this case I was an idiot, just an honest mistake. Where that’s an email when I was in office that I used 97% of the time went to take a look and typed that in by mistake, that’s a mistake that showed up on the city computers. It’s understandable that people are concerned about it and I am sincerely and deeply remorseful about that mistake that I made. It didn’t cost the taxpayers a dime and it didn’t affect except my family and certainly I’m glad the documents would show it was far before I even met my wife and certainly before we were married,” said Bissonnette.

(When did you sign up and did you sign up at work?)

“No, actually it was at home on a laptop, signed up I think in 2010 certainly after they get your email, I’m learning that they send a lot of spam out some of which was sent to that email address certainly,” said Bissonnette.

(So for four years we did pull some emails, and for four years you were presumably receiving emails as we look at some from 2013. Why at some point when you’re receiving these on your .gov email did you just not unsubscribe to it?)

“Well I sent them to the IT department as spam, I also deleted them which goes to our server, which certainly raises the question and it’s an important one in terms of public policy what agency is releasing these emails to the press in a clear attempt to harm my candidacy. That’s something I think people should think about, as well as their take on my using the city email, certainly I’ve learned a little bit more, it is a harsh lesson to learn but I can assure sure people, taxpayers, voters that would not happen again,” said Bissonnette.

(Going through the emails there wasn’t any conversations that you were having, one that you forwarded to a personal email account from another dating site, Heart Detectives, what if anything else did you use your work email for in terms of personal business?)

“I think Facebook, clearly my Facebook page, which generated well over 100,000 messages from a variety of constituents on matters from snow removal to stop lights to that power outage in October of 2011. I used it as an interactive site to do a lot of constituent business on, a little bit different than the static pages that a lot of public officials put up, part of my thing is being accessible to the voters and having those communications, I’m nothing but not a human and I have the same kind of faults and foils that most humans have. I think one of the hallmarks is that I work very, very hard at this job, I always have I take the job seriously, sometimes myself not so much and I think that people like that and respect the fact that I’m accessible and available to them and using that particular site the Facebook site has benefitted me, benefitted the constituents, benefitted the city,” said Bissonnette.

(When Mayor Kos took over he filed a complaint with the attorney general’s office about missing files, missing emails, the attorney general came back and said it was inappropriate but nowhere near criminal. Is this the reason why, are these websites, those emails, the reason why those emails were deleted?)

“I think that’s a fair question Ryan, no it’s not. The reason why the emails were moved from my desktop to the city server is that’s how we had the system setup. I know Mayor Kos didn’t know about it when he went in, the fact of the matter is that he was told about it the first week he was in office. He was told all my emails were on the server, he was told all the documents were in the law office across the hall on the conference table piled up neatly so his office was spotless, the city car was spotless, the city computers were spotless and he was all set to go. Instead they made a profound lie announcing to the public that I had done something criminal and sparked this nine month investigation using state police resources who found absolutely nothing, the attorney general made a very clear statement that while it might have been sloppy there was nothing criminal and there was nothing missing.  People need to understand just because somebody made a statement that somebody did this or somebody did that it’s not necessarily true. Every time one of these City Hall politicians in Chicopee decides to attack me they ask for some law enforcement agency the D.A. or the attorney general or somebody to take a look. The City Council has done it, Mayor Kos has done it and nothing has ever been found in my conduct that was criminal or wrong. I think we really need to get focused on the things that are impacting the taxpayers of Chicopee. The tax rate has gone up out of sight under Kos, the water rates have gone up when we had a plan to stop them or freeze them for three years. Economic development is at a standstill, the city is missing out on millions and millions in grants and meanwhile what we’re getting from this administration is butterflies and unicorns and smiles and photo ops, this is hard work. Running a government this size is no longer like a mom and pop store and so as I say I take the work very seriously, I think my record of eight years shows that I did it as well as any in the city’s history. I was mayor for almost 3,000 days that generated probably half a million emails including the Facebook ones.   Believe me if there was anything more than some website sending me spam don’t you think that my enemies at city hall would have brought that to your attention like they’re trying to do with this,” said Bissonnette.

(In the social media, this TMZ world, you mentioned getting back to the issues, do you think the voters of Chicopee can get past this and move onto the issues?)

“Depends on what they want. If they want a competent administrator of their city government you’re looking at him and they know that to be true. It’s all about competence, certainly because the Kos administration has almost no record to run on, they want to do what they did last time which is smear me, make it all about Michael’s character or as Kos said last time honesty and integrity. That cuts both ways, I think he’s going to have a lot to answer for including my requests for debates in every part of our city. I think it’s time that Chicopee grew up a little bit, politics in general needs to grow up a little bit. I’m very very proud of what I’ve accomplished as mayor much of which is still left to be done due to the inattention or inaction of the current administration. My role here is to go back and finish the job that we started, start bringing that federal and state money in to bring the burden off the local taxpayers. At the same time I understand that people have questions, I’m available, I’m doing an ‘Ask Mike Anything’ tour, going to neighborhoods, people’s backyards, going door to door, people can call me on the phone and ask me on Facebook, I’m still there folks. I’m willing to answer any questions about anything because I think open and honest government is what I’ve always been about. People throw the word ‘transparency’ around I think it’s overused and it’s usually done by phonies, transparency is just trying to be straight-forward with people. Some people don’t like to hear the truth, I’m sorry about that, but unfortunately there are a lot of things that have to be fixed in this city, I was working on fixing them and upset some people at City Hall apparently, some people in politics don’t care for the way I run the city because frankly I try to do what’s right instead of what’s politically expedient, there’s a lot of decisions that political advisers have told me: ‘jeez you should something a different way, you’re going to make this one mad or that one mad.’ That’s not what I’m concerned about, I’m concerned about running the city government as a model $350,000,000 corporation. Run it like a business and we did that and had some great success, I’d like to get back to it,” said Bissonnette.

(After the hack happened, you admitted the truth, was there a time, did you consider pulling out of the mayor’s race?)

“No, because I think people have to make that judgment for themselves and they’ll get an opportunity on November 3rd, I look at it as a mistake, an error in judgement as some might think. The reality of it was that I typed in an email address by mistake, there was no wrongdoing and there’s nothing that cost the city taxpayers a dime, it didn’t affect city government whatsoever. I thank the good Lord above that I wasn’t married at the time or wasn’t seeing my lovely wife Erin at that moment. She was aware of it, we talked about it that it was there before we even got married, it could have been much worse from a personal standpoint, from a political standpoint you know I’m just going to tell the truth, we’ll let the chips fall where they may,” said Bissonnette.

(Voters want a mayor that they can trust, that they can relate to, do you feel that you’re being completely honest about the amount of city time and equipment that you used for personal use?)

“I think it’s pretty straight-forward I think those in possession of the entire email history whoever they may be will certainly look and scrounge and scour all the records and if they find anything they think may hurt me I’m sure it will be brought to your attention as well as other members of the media, unfortunately in Chicopee politics, that’s the way it goes. They’d rather focus on attacking their opponents rather than raise the level of debate try to bring back some civility to the discussion, over here it’s unfortunately as we saw in the last campaign, it’s attack, attack, attack. So I’m prepared to raise that level of debate, I invite Mayor Kos to join me, I think in a broader view, this should have minimal impact on the way people view my candidacy. I hope they’ll judge me on my entire eight years as Mayor rather than this one isolated incident and I think Chicopee voters are not stupid, they’re going to see through this and see it for what it really is. Another attempt by certain individuals and groups to attack me and try to destroy my candidacy. This time, people aren’t going to get fooled and I’m hearing that more and more as I go around- people want to focus on the real issues facing Chicopee and the Ashley Madison website is not a real issue facing Chicopee,” said Bissonnette.

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