The Pembroke Fire District is accusing a Democratic candidate for State Senate of misappropriating its logo and inaccurately implying that the district has endorsed his candidacy.
"We question the integrity of any candidate who would run an ad using our likeness and that is written in such a way that it could be falsely construed as an endorsement for his candidacy," District Chief Ed Mileham Jr., said in a statement.
When reached by phone, the candidate, Marc Coppola, running in the 61st Senate District against Republican incumbent Mike Ranzenhofer, apologized repeatedly for the perception that his mailer implied an endorsement.
"I do apologize if that's the way they took it," Coppola said. "I didn't word it that way. I realize they are a not-for-profit. I'm experienced enough to know they could lose their not-for-profit status if they endorse candidates. I would never put them in that position. I would never even ask for an endorsement."
Mileham said he and other district leaders are upset over Coppola's mailer that started hitting Genesee County mailboxes yesterday.
On one side is a picture of Coppola with local residents Randy and Lori Dibble and a statement of support from the Dibbles. The other side has a picture of Coppola with volunteer firefighter and County Democratic Committee member Aaron Blake. Blake is endorsing Coppola.
To view the mailer for yourself: Front / Back.
The caption under the picture reads, "Marc and Firefighter Aaron Blake at Indian Falls Fire House truck dedication in honor of Harry Dibble & Gary Byerly."
"We are disturbed that Mr. Coppola would use the solemn event of the dedication of a truck to deceased department members as a political ad," Mileham said in his statement. "The ad shockingly refers to the deceased members we were honoring and shows the plaque dedicated to them. The candidate was in no way involved with the dedication and appears to have used this event as a crass attempt to obtain votes."
Coppola said he was invited to the dedication by Randy and Lori Dibble and brought no campaign literature with him nor wore any buttons or shirts identifying himself as a political candidate. He said Lori Dibble took the picture using her cell phone camera and when he was putting together the mailer, he realized it was the best picture he had of himself in Genesee County, and that it was the only good picture he had of himself with Blake.
"I didn't mean to imply an endorsement," Coppola said. "It was just a nice picture."
He said he included the caption information because he thought the picture would look out of place without an explanation, and he said Blake suggested that if he left out the name of Gary Byerly that some people, especially his family members, might be offended.