Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Friday, November 22, 2013

DC Government at-will employees need protections to tell the truth

Today's Post reports ("US Park Police Chief Teresa Chambers announces her retirement") on the retirement of US Park Police Chief Teresa Chambers, who had been fired by the Bush Administration for publicly stating that post-9/11 her department lacked the resources to protect all the federal installations under her purview, given the increased threat from terrorism.  After many years of legal action, she was able to return to her job.

Yesterday's Post has an op-ed column, "Egypt looks for a path toward democracy," about Egypt's stumbling path towards democracy and the recent action by the ruling military government to remove comedian from television after he made some jokes about the state of politics in Egypt.

Earlier in the week, in "The trope about the benefit of "Telling truth to power is mostly" is mostly B.S.: DC edition," I wrote about how Mayor Gray fired William White, the DC Insurance Commissioner, for criticizing a policy action by President Obama, aimed at quelling criticisms of the Affordable Care Act, but the action will occur in a manner that it makes it harder for the state insurance exchanges to function.

That blog entry also mentioned how in 2012, Mayor Gray similarly fired another agency head, Christophe Tulou, then of the Department of Environment, for communicating concerns about DC policy direction to the EPA.

While I understand that agency heads serve at the pleasure of the Mayor and are "at-will" employees, I don't believe that they should lack job protections for telling the truth, even if the truth is something that the Mayor doesn't want to hear or perceives as "embarrassing" (also see "killing the messenger").

The Mayor of a local government ought not to be allowed to restrict truth telling amongst high level personnel and to countenance the restriction of vital communications to the citizens and relevant stakeholders.

Regular government employees have some protections for telling the truth, because section one of the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution holds that state (and indirectly, local) governments have to uphold the Constitution, and this includes the First Amendment concerning freedom of speech.

Note that many people do not understand that "freedom of speech" is a right between the citizens and government, it is not a right between citizens and their place of work--unless their place of work happens to be a federal, state, or local government agency.

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