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Unattributed political flyer raises concerns in Paris
PARIS — A flyer sent to residents urging them to vote against the proposed inter-local agreement between Paris and the Oxford County Sheriff's Office is in no way connected to the town office, said Paris Town Manager Amy Bernard Tuesday.
The flyer, printed on pink paper and addressed simply to "Resident Town of Paris" reminds residents to vote June 11, then encourages voting against the inter-local agreement with Oxford County.
As of Tuesday morning, however, the campaign flyer was unattributed. Nowhere does it indicate what individual or group paid for the advertising. According to representatives of the U.S. Postal Service, the flyer is being mailed out with a return address.
According to USPS, the flyer, despite advocating strongly for a controversial political issue, is not considered political mail and is not required to have attribution or identification of the sender.
Because of the lack of attribution, Bernard worried residents might believe the flyer was sent out by the town office, at taxpayer expense.
"This is absolutely not coming from the town office," Bernard said. "We have zero involvement with the flyer."
Bernard said she addressed her concerns about the flyer to the post office, which has remedied the situation.
According to Tom Rizzo, spokesperson for the U.S. Postal Services North New England District, the mailing was sent out as Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM).
EDDM is a bare-bones USPS product that allows an advertiser to send out local mass-mailings.
Customers can use an online tool to determine which addresses they would like to reach and purchase the service. They then drop off their flyer or product at the post office and it is sent out by standard mail, Rizzo explained.
Because no sorting or processing is required, the service is inexpensive, Rizzo said.
According to Rizzo, the South Paris postmaster, Karen Neys, contacted the district office because the mailing in question, which had 2,500 pieces, did not have the "indentia," or permit provided to EDDM customers or a return address.
"You really had no way of knowing where that mailing came from," Rizzo said.
The district office, however, waived the permit requirement because the service had been paid for, Rizzo said. EDDM mailings are not obligated to have a return address, he said.
When Neys was alerted about the town office's concerns, she contacted the customer who ordered the EDDM and convinced them to affix a return address to the flyer, to allay the town office's concerns, Rizzo said.
The changes were being made Tuesday afternoon and the mailing was expected to go out soon, Rizzo said.
That Neys was willing to work closely with the customer and town office to resolve the issue indicated the post office's dedication to customer service, Rizzo noted.
He would not, however, disclose the name of the customer who ordered the EDDM, saying it was only a party advocating for one side of the Paris Police Department issue.
Because EDDM was standard mail, was not processed at a USPS facility and it was not "political season," the mailing did not qualify as political mail, despite the fact it advocated strongly for one side of the issue, Rizzo said.
That means there is no obligation for identification or attribution, including a return address, he said.
"It's simply not political mail," Rizzo said. "It's not political season, it's not tagged with a tag that says political mail ... they are two different animals. The content is not really relevant in this case."
Voters will go to the polls on June 11 to decide whether Paris will keep its police department or contract with the Sheriff's Office.