February 1, 2011

For Whom They Work

Justin Katz

Maybe it's a small thing, but such ideological tells as the sentence that I've emphasized in the following paragraph from an unsigned Projo editorial have been catching my attention more, lately:

It's no violation of the First Amendment for Mr. Chafee, a liberal, to do what he says he will do: Ban his people from talking in these talk-show echo chambers on state work time. (His administration made an exception for emergencies such as storms; he may find there are lots of emergencies.) After all, you don't have to work for Mr. Chafee.

Is it stating the obvious to suggest that even public officials appointed by the governor work for the people of the state? It's not a minor point, in this context: If department heads and other employees of the state's executive branch of government work for the people, rather than for the public CEO, then it's not just imprudent, but inappropriate of Governor Chafee to create barriers to their communication with their actual employers.

Inasmuch as they're not using "state work time" to promote matters completely disconnected from their public jobs, banning them from addressing tens of thousands of talk-radio listeners should be coupled with bans on addressing much smaller audiences in person or by other media. Surely the Providence Journal would object to such executive overreach.

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I wonder how the ProJo would react if a Governor adopted a policy of immediately firing any State employee who spoke to a ProJo reporter?

Posted by: brassband at February 1, 2011 8:00 PM

A really sad aspect of the quoted ProJo excerpt is that the reasoning expressed is so poor and embarrassing. It is all but impossible that we would ever see such an inept editorial statement coming from something like the New York Times or LA Times. And like the Hans Christian Andersen tale of the emperor without clothes, someone at the ProJo is really proud of this grade-school level pronouncement.

Posted by: Bill at February 1, 2011 8:16 PM

This blog is NOTICED!

Dr. Zhivago should be on every high school's must-see list.

Posted by: mangeek at February 1, 2011 8:23 PM

I can understand the desire to maintain control of the product, but I know at least three AR commenters (myself included) who work for an institution that's considered 'liberal', but values dissent and free speech as ideals higher than the 'party line'.

I can understand the ban on idle chat and radio spots during work hours, but there's a higher purpose to be served. The only reason to silence your employees is if they are self aggrandizing or you're not proud of them.

Posted by: mangeek at February 1, 2011 8:37 PM

My employer doesn't allow workers to talk to the media about job related issues. In fact, none of my employers have allowed that. Corporations must hate the 1st Amendment, right?

You guys crack me up. If only you cared about actual 1st Amendment issues as much as you do these manufactured ones!

Posted by: Russ at February 2, 2011 8:24 AM

Russ-I love it.You and your cohorts want to tack on all kinds of extraneous meaniings to the 1st amendment.
Your employer has no relation to the 1st amendment in any event.This is because the amendments comprising the Bill of Rights are a limitation on governmental interference in the private lives of citizens.Even a government employee can't throw the ist amendment card when it comes to public statements while on the clock.
Off the clock is a whole different story,and Chafee with his inbred nose in the air will get a real comeuppance if he starts f**king with state employees on their own time.

Posted by: joe bernstein at February 2, 2011 9:12 AM

Joe, good points... although we are talking about on the clock public employees.

Posted by: Russ at February 2, 2011 10:01 AM

Let employees talk off the clock if they want - I think Chafee's smart enough to realize the limits of his policy. Of course, it would entail DePetro having to run his show after dinner, but if he's willing to make that sacrifice, I'm fine with it.

Posted by: bella at February 2, 2011 10:45 AM

OK-on the clock is a matter of policy,not rights.
I was prohibited from making off the clock comments about any ongoing or past investigations or policies when I was an INS agent.Except with prior agency approval,as I did in a number of cases.
Most law enforcement agencies have an overriding interest in protecting the integrity of a case and the safety of witnesses.
Same for classified information,whether military or civilian.
Once retired or otherwise no longer employed,I was not limited,except of course for anything classified,which I didn't deal with anyway.
Sometimes people sign non-disclosure agreements with a company like my sister in law did after taking a severance package resulting from a sex discrimination(not harrassment)dispute with her employer.Those are legally binding.
In general,I think most government employees not engaged in a sensitive operation can speak freely when not at work.
Chafee seems to think if he speaks,it shall be done,like some Chinese emperor of old.
Sorry,Linc,it doesn't work that way(thankfully).

Posted by: joe bernstein at February 2, 2011 12:18 PM
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