Time to let city workers join political process - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Time to let city workers join political process

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Posted: Tuesday, March 7, 2006 5:43 am | Updated: 2:27 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Since the days of big-city bossism decades ago, it remains today a delicate balance to restrict just enough political activity by government employees to prevent politically corrupt behavior while preserving as many of a worker’s rights as possible.

Regrettably, however, Scottsdale’s rules for its workers go too far beyond parameters set for such activity by Congress for federal, state and local government employees. Scottsdale’s rules prohibit behavior that most of these other agencies’ employees may freely engage in.

In 1939, Congress passed the Hatch Act, which as amended since restricts political activity by federal, state and local employees. Essentially, the rules ask government workers to keep their political views and solicitations outside the workplace.

They forbid employees from using their official authority to influence or coerce others’ political views, although they would be within their rights to speak as a private citizen. They may run for office in non-partisan elections (such as city council elections in most Valley cities).

They may contribute money to candidates and attend political fund-raisers. They may campaign for or against a candidate, even in a partisan election, where they may also sign nominating petitions, wear buttons, make speeches or hand out literature for or against a candidate. They can’t do those things at work or representing their office, though.

Compare this to rules announced by Scottsdale: City workers may not contribute to a city campaign. They may not post a city election campaign sign on their own property. They may not circulate petitions on behalf of a city candidate. They may informally use the spoken word to talk city politics, but may not write their opinions down.

Absent the current list of restrictions, a Scottsdale city worker may, on his or her own motion, decide that declaring an election preference wouldn’t be in his or her best employment interests despite protections provided by law. That would be a worker’s right.

The city should tear up its current list of over-the-top curbs and, outside of the workplace, leave decisions on political behavior up to its employees.

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