Not real sure how to begin this. I currently am employed by and a citizen of the City of Deer Park here next to Houston. On the 5th of April the city sent out a policy letter referring to social media use by employees. To make a long story short, it stated (paraphrased) no employee can say anything negative about the city or its employees on social media sites. Keep in mind we are going into an election season... I did a little research and I'm continuing to do more, as I find this to be against the the oath that we all took "to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America".
I wrote a letter, at length I may add, to the mayor and the city council expressing that any citizen has the right to critisize his or her government. Not to lay into slander or libel, but open critisizm is a fundamental right. I went so far as to quote a Supreme Court opinion which dated back to 1925 that stated the 14th Amendment extended the 1st amendment applicable to lower governmental bodies. I have had zero response from my elected governmental leaders in 2 weeks time and a city council meeting occured this past Tuesday (1 May 12).
I suppose what I'm asking is can anybody here give some advice? I've seen a few other court cases where the verdict was upheld, I'm just having difficulty finding the actual opinions (for any legal folks out there please correct me if my verbiage is incorrect) in favor of the Right to Free Speech regardless of employment status.
Any advice is welcome. Dennisthompson74@gmail.com or reply to this posting.
Thanks to all of you.
Eddie, first let me thank you for your reply. I certainly appreciate your thoughts even if I non-concur with a few. If you will allow me, please let me restate my intent as I may have spoken ambiguously. I have no grievance from a work perspective with my employer. I would never take a work related issue outside of the work place. I would do as we were taught in the military and take it up the chain. Should that fail, take it up the next chain until resolved. Win or lose. My issue is in the principal of the matter. Nothing else. I understand that OPSEC transcends COMMSEC and so forth. But I'm not law enforcement official nor are the majority of folks to which OPSEC and COMMSEC would apply. But to those whom it would apply I certainly understand.
1) RE: Termination for disobedience. Bland v. Roberts 24 Apr 2012. Synopsis: Some guys were fired from the sheriff's office (during an election campaign for the sheriff) when they were told not to say anything negative on social media sites about the sheriff. It was taken to federal court in suit. The judge ruled that they had no suit because all they did was hit the "like" on facebook. Since they had no substantial comments, it was ruled as a null and void case. Substansiative comments are the key here. Had they come forth and stated something resembling "Sheriff XX has consistently wasted taxpayer funds on toilet paper and here are the receipts" they would have a valid case. They also could have simply said "I don't like the way he does things". That too is a valid argument for breech of First Amendment Rights. The 14th Amendment extended the 1st to the lower governmental bodies in the case of Gitlow v. New York in 1925. WE CAN QUESTION AND CRITISIZE OUR ELECTED OFFICIALS!
2) I truly understand choosing ones battles. You, as well as I, (and anyone reading this) know that in the military politics is boss. "It's not who ya know but who ya ..." But unless there are persons such as you and I, whom are willing to stand up to the "powers that be" and I use that term loosely; we would be absolutely no different than the folks we've been fighting for the last ten years. Mindless drones just saying "Yes sir, whatever you say sir". Isn't this the very reason an organization such as LSVA was formed? We vets simply were not getting what we needed. So we needed to make our voice heard, correct?
3) As far as being labeled a Pariah? I can deal with that. If it positively affects even one person, I'm good with that. And again, it's the principal of the matter that angers me.
4) My city lacks even an ombudsman much less an IG.
Finally, thanks again man! I really do mean that. Anyone reading in please feel free to elaborate. This is the reason I posted this here. I'm looking for feedback and resources.
I think this is related to the upcoming elections and most politicians want to be seen putting their best image out to rake in as many votes as possible. In my opinion, as long as you remain professional, document the facts, and have the proof to your argument, and you do it on your time not the departments time, you should not be penalized or harrassed for speaking your mind. But remember, politics needs to stay out of the workplace. From my own experience I began getting into debates that escalated into arguments over politics. I shared an office with someone and that person would change the radio station to listen to the right wing crazies daily (sorry, that's what they sound like), and then that same person would get worked up and start yelling at me for not being republican. First, I never mentioned anything about what party I belonged to but when I offered facts contrary to the inaccuracies in the shock jocks rants (limbaugh, hannity, beck, etc) the man just blew his top. I mean it was my radio... to make things fair we agreed to alternate between stations for independent media programs and his conservative radio programs. The arguments persisted. In the end I took the radio back and set the station to christian music before I broke the button off. We both got written up for the arguments in our work environment.
The situation in this country now is getting out of control. Carrying a picket sign is enough to get you arrested but the Supreme Court says money is speech and the folks that do not have any do not get to speak their mind or demonstrate? Pretty BS to me. Sounds like there may be some intimidation going on to keep the departments dirty laundry under the rug.
You don't have to friend anyone from your workplace on your facebook. Keep your work and social life separate. I do. There is a way to get around it. In your quotes or somewhere on your page simply put this disclaimer: "My opinions are my own and do not reflect the views of my employer." End of story. They terminate you for posting critical comments after you have that, sue them. I work for the state, too. When I worked in big oil, I always criticized them for the awful smell around Baytown and Pasadena areas and I worked for them for seven years. It did not get me fired, I moved on to a better position with less stress.
Hope this was helpful.
Thank you Eduardo. I keep these things in mind with all my actions. Am I perfect? No, but I make every effort to always do my best.