The author of the email was Shumpert Caldwell, an assistant sergeant-at-arms for Philadelphia City Council.

But the email address was "" — and it was sent Wednesday afternoon to hundreds, if not thousands, of people who have signed up with Jim Kenney's mayoral campaign.

In the message, Caldwell recounts his chance encounter with Kenney when Caldwell was younger. Kenney caught him red-handed spray-painting a wall in South Philly, the email said.

But "he didn't haul me off to the police station — he took me back to school," Caldwell says, adding that Kenney helped him "turn his life around" several years later after brushes with the law landed Caldwell in prison.

The problem with the feel-good story? It's a solicitation for donations to the Kenney campaign.

At three different points in the email, Caldwell, a city worker barred from political activities by the Home Rule Charter, asks readers to give to Kenney.

Within hours of sending the message and following questions from, the campaign said it was returning donations made through the email's links and reporting itself to the city Board of Ethics, which oversees campaign finance law.

"Can you pitch in $5 or more right now to help give Jim the resources he needs to stand up for those who deserve another opportunity at building a better life?" Caldwell's email reads.

Kenney faces a Republican, Melissa Murray Bailey, and three independent candidates in the Nov. 3 election.

A spokeswoman for the Kenney campaign initially said the message had been cleared internally. She also noted Caldwell "is out on vacation this week."

But minutes later, the spokeswoman, Lauren Hitt, said the email was "a campaign error" and that it has been "self-reported to the Board of Ethics." Caldwell was unaware the purpose of the email was to ask for donations, Hitt said.

"While City Council employees are allowed to do political activity in their free time (which is why we initially didn't think it would be a problem since he's on vacation), solicitations for donations aren't allowed," Hitt wrote in an email to "When Shump reviewed the language, it didn't have a donation ask in there. That language was added later by our staff."

Such a mistake can be costly. City employees who violate the code governing political activities face a $300 fine — and, potentially, the loss of employment with the city.

Shane Creamer, executive director of the city's Board of Ethics, declined to comment on the Kenney campaign's email, citing the board's policy not to discuss individual cases.

But he did say that, in general, "non-elected city employees are restricted from being involved in political fundraising. And that restriction applies across the board to everyone."

Caldwell, who has worked as a sergeant-at-arms since 2011 and for the city of Philadelphia since 2007, did not respond to a message left at Council President Darrell Clarke's office. A receptionist said she believes Caldwell is on vacation this week.

"Today, I'm proud to have a job that can support my family -- my three beautiful kids and my lovely wife," Caldwell says in the email. "As mayor, I know that Jim will continue fighting to create opportunities for people who have paid their dues to society and deserve another chance."

After thanking the email recipients, included is a postscript that links to Kenney's campaign website:

"P.S. Pitch in $5 or more right now if you believe Philadelphians like me who have served their time deserve a chance at rebuilding their lives."

Hitt said that in addition to removing the links in the email that allow people to donate, the campaign also has "already returned the money to the donors who contributed from that email."