The Statement Of South Pittsburg Commissioner Jeff Powers

Fellow public servants!

From the reports and the debates on these reports heard at the last city council meeting, it is evident that we are dealing with the following main facts.

First, the wrecking and diversionist-espionage work of disgruntled city employees, among whom a rather active role was played by the police, affected more or less all, or nearly all, of our organizations – economic, administrative, and sewage treatment.

Second, sabotage and espionage are being carried out at the social media level, including Facebook and Twitter.

Jeff Powers of South Pittsburg Tennessee exhorts city workers to crush internet sabotage and wrecking

Jeff Powers of South Pittsburg Tennessee exhorts city workers to crush internet sabotage and wrecking

Third, some of our city employees, both at the center and at the periphery, not only failed to discern the face of these wreckers, spies, and killers, but proved to be so careless, complacent,and naive that at times they themselves assisted in sabotage by failing to discipline or terminate the wreckers.

These are the three incontrovertible facts which naturally emerge from the reports and the discussions on them.

WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED, FELLOW CITIZENS?


How are we to explain the fact that our city employees, having a rich experience in the struggle against all sorts of jay-walking, littering, and sewage leaks, proved in the present case to be so naive and blind that they were unable to discern the real face of the enemies of South Pittsburg, that they failed to recognize the wolves in sheep's clothing and were unable to tear away their masks? What negligence, friends! And how shall it be punished?

Can it be claimed that the wrecking and sabotage of the agents of disgruntled city employees operating in the territory of South Pittsburg can be anything unexpected and unprecedented for us? No, it is impossible to claim this. This is demonstrated by the wrecking acts in various branches of the road maintenance department during the past ten years, beginning under the previous mayor, as is recorded in the minutes of the July 2014 council meeting.

Can it be claimed that in this past period there were no precautionary signals or warnings about the wrecking, spying, or terrorist activities of the disgruntled agents of the water department? No, it is impossible to claim this. We had such signals, and the city council has no right to forget about them.

WHAT IS TO BE DONE? 

What are the facts which our city employees have forgotten about, or which they simply have not noticed?

They have forgotten that city employees at all times act as representatives of South Pittsburg, whether at work, at home, in church, or on the internet. They have forgotten that there is no right to privacy in South Pittsburg. We have an accepted habit of chattering about the cold coffee in the council meeting room, but people don't want to ponder about what this thing is – sabotage by Myrtle Huffines, the mayor's secretary, who has been told, again and again, that we want Folger's, not Maxwell House from the Piggly Wiggly. Sabotage is not a myth, it is a very real and ever-present threat. by wreckers who wait for the opportunity to attack South Pittsburg, to crush it, or to undermine its might and to weaken it within.

It is this main fact that our city employees have forgotten. And so we must bring down the fist of the united peoples and government of South Pittsburg upon these enemies, to remind them of their duty. Henceforth, fellow public servants, fellow citizens, the eye of South Pittsburg shall be upon you all. All of these traitors, and all enemies of the peoples of South Pittsburg must be reminded, that criticism of the city council and its departments is a termination offense. We will pursue these enemies to the death, as we did with the raccoon that was knocking over trash-cans on Woodleaf Road.

The mistake made by the dissenters on the council is that they fail to notice and do not understand this difference between the old and new South Pittsburg, the changes wrought by the traitors of Facebook and Twitter, and, not noticing this, they are unable to adapt themselves to fight with the new wreckers in a new way. I move that the revised policy on social media use by city employees be passed.

Do I have a second?

Last 5 posts by Patrick Non-White

Comments

  1. says

    I owe a great debt to the works of Iosef Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili, from whose "Defects in Party Work and Measures for Liquidating Trotskyite and Other Double Dealers" much of this was taken.

  2. Trevor says

    I owe a great debt to the works of Iosef Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili, from whose "Defects in Party Work and Measures for Liquidating Trotskyite and Other Double Dealers" much of this was taken.

    Well, I mean…don't we all?

  3. Joe Dokes says

    I've posted this same basic comment on a number of websites in the past few months. We as a society have utterly failed to teach basic civil liberties to a vast majority of our citizens.

    We have failed to teach police officers that recording, photographing, and observing them conduct their jobs is not a crime.

    We have failed to teach petty politicians that criticism is part of the job and that government employees also have freedom of speech.

    We have failed to teach students that having their feelings hurt is not a hate crime, that being criticized and even ridiculed is a form of free speech.

    We have failed to teach conservatives that criticism of the US military is not treason and that one can criticize the policies of the United States and still be a loyal citizen.

    I say the above as a teacher and student of government. I am in many ways ashamed that k-12 educators have done such a dismal job teaching students what free speech is and what it entails.

    Regards,

  4. David C says

    "City Attorney Billy Gouger said the new policy is not intended to infringe on anyone's right to free speech."

    So they have an attorney? And he didn't advise against this?

    And it's not intended to infringe on free speech? Really? Because it seems that that's the ONLY thing it does.

  5. Dan N says

    Most likely they have a Good Ol' Boy who graduated from Cowflop U's law program with a C- and eventually managed to guess enough answers on the bar exam right to get a minimally passing score…

  6. Philosopherva says

    I noticed in one of the linked articles that " Dawkins said the policy was mostly designed to stop people from posting employees’ salary information or police officers’ schedules on Facebook. " At least where I am from, public employee's salary information is a matter of public record. The newspaper in the state capitol obtains all employee's salary through a FOIA request and maintains an online database which is searchable by anyone. If I accept public money for my job, the public has a right to know how much they pay for me and what I do for them. Govern yourselves accordingly.

  7. Rick says

    Whew, Ken. My faith in…something is restored:

    City Attorney Billy Gouger said the new policy is not intended to infringe on anyone's right to free speech.

  8. David C says

    I noticed in one of the linked articles that " Dawkins said the policy was mostly designed to stop people from posting employees’ salary information or police officers’ schedules on Facebook.

    What, exactly, does the policy say? If it's simply a nondisparagement agreement then it wouldn't even limit that sort of thing, because a salary or schedule is not disparaging in and of itself. (Plus the policy doesn't apply to the newspaper, which is presumably not a government employee.)

    None of the linked articles had the exact text of what was passed that I could see.

  9. That Anonymous Coward says

    So how much cash will the city bleed before they decide the problem is Jeff Powers & those enabling him?
    I foresee lots of 0's on settlement check(s) and angry citizens wondering if perhaps the evildoers were just trying to point out the emperor is insane & naked.

  10. Bob says

    Patrick, I read the original article, he's not a censor at all. He makes it very clear that he fully supports every citizen's right to free speech. He's simply making sure that speech directed at the government is positive. Freedom of speech: the right to praise your government in any way that you wish.

  11. Nancy says

    I gather they weren't paying a lot of attention when Gould Arkansas hit the news for telling people they couldn't have any meetings, of any kind, without permission from the town council.

  12. Matthew Cline says

    Maybe I'm giving too much credit to the intelligence (not morals or character) of those who made the law, but maybe the primary intent of the law isn't to prevent city employees from criticizing the city. Maybe the primary intent is to give them an excuse to subpoena the identities of anonymous/pseudonymous twitter accounts which criticize the city.

  13. Dr. Wu says

    I'm not too worried about the employees of South Pittsburg. This is the part of the world that may as well have invented damnation-by-faint-praise. I look forward to an outpouring of glowing municipal praise positively glistening with honey, and having exactly the desired effect.

  14. Castaigne says

    *reads article* Ok…I've had to sign a similar policy statement for every corporation I've ever worked for. I do represent my employer 24/7; heck, I remember a few years ago when we fired a guy for not adhering to the policy when he was seen at a strip club by a client some weekend. (Yes, the guy was not working at the time. Not on the clock. No, we're not some religious company.)

    So, I guess I'm missing something. If it's all right for a corporation to do this to its employees, why shouldn't it be the same for a government employee? Or small business or non profit or whatever?

  15. CrimsonAvenger says

    @Castaigne:

    I think this pretty much completely answers your question:

    "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

    If it isn't obvious, that "abridging the freedom of speech" part is the relevant piece.
    Yes, they're not Congress, but the diverse interpretations by the Courts over the years make it pretty clear that lower levels of government are just as bound as Congress.

  16. Castaigne says

    @CrimsonAvenger:

    Yes, they're not Congress, but the diverse interpretations by the Courts over the years make it pretty clear that lower levels of government are just as bound as Congress.

    Well, yes, state and local governments are bound by the 1st Amendment….but this isn't a law telling the citizens of South Pittsburg that they can't speak about their government. This is a policy about people employed by the City of South Pittsburg not being allowed to speak about their employer. I don't believe that's a 1st Amendment violation – Ken or somebody, refer to the appropriate law or caselaw if I'm wrong – and any such determination that such a policy is wrong would be handled by the NLRB, if I'm not mistaken.

  17. David C says

    If it's all right for a corporation to do this to its employees, why shouldn't it be the same for a government employee?

    You said "shouldn't", not "isn't", so I'll ignore the constitutional stuff for now.

    Imagine this at the federal level. The Republicans get a majority, the Democrats criticize them on Twitter, and the Republicans fire every Democrat that dares to criticize them. Oh, look, now there's no opposition and they can pass whatever they like, even the stuff that requires 2/3 votes.

    At the local level, they may or may not associate with a political party, but it's the same concept – the minority "camp" has to shut up.

    In a corporation, the owner has every right to fire whoever he likes. It's his corporation. But, Jeff Powers does not own South Pittsburg. It's not "his" city to do with as he pleases.

    Furthermore, there's a greater public interest in a government employee being able to criticize the government than in a private company's employee being able to criticize the private company. Government employees are still voters, and so are the people they are communicating with. And look at this case in particular – this passed by a 4-1 vote. Who is served if the lone dissenter is prevented from criticizing the city attorney for approving such a thing, or the other commissioners for passing it? Is that really in the interests of the citizens of the city? No. It's only in the interests of the people who he now can't criticize.

  18. David C says

    @Castaigne: See Mt. Healthy City School District Board of Education v. Doyle (429 U.S. 274), in which a firing could not occur solely based on a teacher's communication with a radio station. (It was remanded to the lower court because he had also used an obscene gesture in front of students, which could have been a separate reason to fire him.)

  19. Castaigne says

    @David C:

    The Republicans get a majority, the Democrats criticize them on Twitter, and the Republicans fire every Democrat that dares to criticize them.

    I assume you're not talking about elected officials, since Republican Congressmen don't have the ability to fire Democratic Congressmen, and vice-versa.

    But if you were talking about a Republican President and Democratic members of the federal bureaucracy who are not protected by lifetime appointments, then yes, I would see it to be completely legit to fire those criticizing federal employees. The President is the CEO of the federal bureaucracy. One does not criticize one's CEO without consequences. The 1st Class Private does not criticize the Army or its Generals. The bottom employee does not criticize the company or his boss. I see all of these as equivalent.

    At the local level, they may or may not associate with a political party, but it's the same concept – the minority "camp" has to shut up.

    You clearly are seeing a political dimension where I am only seeing a boss/employee dimension.

    Furthermore, there's a greater public interest in a government employee being able to criticize the government than in a private company's employee being able to criticize the private company. Government employees are still voters, and so are the people they are communicating with

    So, if I were a government employee, it would be totes OK for me to post daily the personal life shenanigans of the government I work for – it's rumored Commissioner Bob is having an affair, Manager Daisy takes an extra 5 minutes every morning to do her makeup – where it would not be OK for a private corporation to do so? And this would be in the public interest? I just want to make sure I have that correct.

    See Mt. Healthy City School District Board of Education v. Doyle

    *reads* This case has no relevance to current social media policies. Doesn't even touch them.

  20. Dan says

    @Castaigne
    Ken has addressed this issue, at length, over the last year or so wrt professors at public universities. The bottom line is that the First Amendment (by way of the 14th, for employees of state or local governments) protects public employees from having adverse employment taken based on their speech, irrespective of whether you or I think it should be that way.

  21. Fasolt says

    From the Times Free Press link above:

    It is intended to "minimize personal attacking" and "showing people in a negative light," Powers said.

    "Criticism is one thing," Mayor Jane Dawkins said. "Out-and-out lies and untruths — that's another thing. Those kinds of things are the things that will be directed."

    These people are politicians? Do they get picked for office by consensus in South Pittsburgh? They appear to be unfamiliar with election campaigns.

    Bones quote from the Business Week article linked above:

    South Pittsburg isn’t the first to try to squash bad publicity only to cause even more. Earlier this year, a hotel in England fined a guest £100 for leaving a one-star review on TripAdvisor. The review was picked up by the BBC, so the reviewer’s assertion that the hotel was nothing more than a “dirty rotten stinking hovel run by Muppets” was seen by more people than it would’ve been otherwise. And last year, a vacation rental company removed its threats to fine negative reviewers $10,000 after CNN reported on it.

  22. Dan says

    I'll add to my previous post (since you brought up the military) that in the military, the maintenance of good order and discipline overrides the First Amendment. Military members can be not only disciplined, but also criminally punished, for being disrespectful toward a senior authority, whether military or civilian. That does not extend to civilian employees.

  23. Fasolt says

    Heh.

    Other people have jumped on the issue too. Within days of the resolution’s passing, several Reddit users created parody Twitter accounts for Dawkins and Powers from which they proceeded to tweet faux-positive comments such as, “rumors of an underground goat sex ring comprised of its elected officials … are exaggerated” or “Any temperature below 0 is henceforth banned. #DownWithNegatives.”

    The song, "The Way We Were" is running through my mind. I'm sure they're wishing it could go back to the way it was when no one had heard about their humble little hamlet.

  24. David C says

    You clearly are seeing a political dimension where I am only seeing a boss/employee dimension.

    Correct. There's a political dimension because we're talking about government. And the policy apparently prohibits criticizing not just individual people, but abstractions like the city council.

    But even nongovernment employees have some protection if they are complaining about workplace conditions, according to the NLRB, because it may be considered union-organizing activity, and that applies even if there's no union because the complaints may spur them to form one. (Although THAT exception doesn't apply to government workers. I'm just mentioning it to show that even private corporations don't have an unfettered right to fire people for discussing their employment.)

    Manager Daisy takes an extra 5 minutes every morning to do her makeup

    If you're constantly commenting on her appearance, you have to be careful of workplace harassment laws.

    How did you get this sort of information? Unless she's doing her makeup at work, it doesn't seem to have much to do with either of your employments. If you're putting a camera in her bathroom, that's obviously running afoul of privacy laws. If you're purposely lying about her, that's defamation even if she is a public figure. If you know because your job gives you access to the confidential HR system that shows internal disciplines for being late to work due to makeup, you're violating laws there too. If you know because you heard her say so at the water cooler… well, she's the one who chose to share that information with you.

    This case has no relevance to current social media policies

    You differentiate between traditional media and social media for something like this? What's the legal distinction between a radio station and Twitter, for these purposes?

  25. Castaigne says

    @David C:

    The bottom line is that the First Amendment (by way of the 14th, for employees of state or local governments) protects public employees from having adverse employment taken based on their speech, irrespective of whether you or I think it should be that way.

    Then civil servants have more rights than we, the civil masters who are taxpayers. I would say that should be something that should definite be reversed in terms of situation. Civil servants, who are sub-citizens, should always have less rights than actual citizens. why should statists have all the fun?

    Military members can be not only disciplined, but also criminally punished, for being disrespectful toward a senior authority, whether military or civilian. That does not extend to civilian employees.

    I really think it should. Of course, I also support the assigning of a rank to each civilian employee or contractor for the military and considering them to be part of the military for the duration of their employment for the purposes of discipline.

    Correct. There's a political dimension because we're talking about government.

    You have government-as-government and government-as-employer. I differentiate between the two. Clearly, you do not.

    And the policy apparently prohibits criticizing not just individual people, but abstractions like the city council.

    Makes sense to me. I can't criticize the Board of Directors either, or policies made by them. That's the equivalent on government side. So I wouldn't have a problem with that as a government employee, since I consider that to be normal working conditions.

    I'm just mentioning it to show that even private corporations don't have an unfettered right to fire people for discussing their employment.

    In theory, sure, but not in practice. I mean, right-to-work and at-will and all that. Of course, I've never lived in a state that doesn't have both, so I have no idea what it's like elsewhere. Someone's union organizing? You fire 'em, you don't say why, just have security escort 'em out. When they file for unemployment, you either give it to them or produce doccos saying they were thieving or their position was eliminated or some other happy crappy you can make up. End of list. Nobody's going to know different.

    But that's getting off-topic.

    How did you get this sort of information?

    Does it truly matter? Once it's out there in the public, nothing anyone can really do about it. You can just GamerGate it to heck and gone. When you're questioned, you just say "I heard it somewhere, I forget where." Who can prove otherwise? Becomes a null issue.

    You differentiate between traditional media and social media for something like this?

    …Er, yes. That's why they're called social media policies.

    What's the legal distinction between a radio station and Twitter, for these purposes?

    Last I heard of it, social media policies usually define social media as "the collective of online communications channels dedicated to community-based input, interaction, content-sharing and collaboration." Key word there: online.

  26. John B says

    David C and Castaigne,

    All it would take at the federal level is for Congress to repeal the civil service act and all it's amendments. This would take us back to the spoils system where every civilian employee of these United States is a political appointee and serves at the pleasure of the President.

    Some other intermediate position could also be taken by Congress. But the present leadership in congress are afraid to defend their prerogatives under the Constitution against unlawful executive or judicial interference.

  27. Dan says

    First Amendment rights don't vary depending on the medium of expression. They're the same whether the expression is done orally, in print on dead trees, by radio, by interpretive dance, or online. A case that says that a school district violated a teacher's First Amendment rights by disciplining him for what he said on the radio (or said to a radio station) is exactly relevant to the question of whether a city may circumscribe its employees' social media use on their own time. The policy in question may be limited to social media, but that fact is not relevant for the First Amendment analysis.

  28. David C says

    Last I heard of it, social media policies usually define social media as "the collective of online communications channels dedicated to community-based input, interaction, content-sharing and collaboration." Key word there: online.

    Err, sorry. I wasn't asking what the law's definition of social media was; I was asking why they should be treated differently by the court. If radio speech is constitutionally protected then so is twitter speech, unless there's some reason why twitter speech shouldn't be.

  29. Wrangler says

    @Castaigne you seem hung up on the whole "corporations can, why can't the government?" argument or that elected officials are analogous to the leadership positions in private companies.
    Those are both sort of wrong.
    A private company can't censor anyone. They can try, but in the end it always falls to the government to actually censor the message that the corporation/business wants to block.

    And the idea that the folks in civil service positions need to adhere to the political beliefs of elected officials is sort of saying that a fascist government is the best model.

  30. AlphaCentauri says

    Then civil servants have more rights than we, the civil masters who are taxpayers. I would say that should be something that should definite be reversed in terms of situation.

    The civil servants are citizens, too. They aren't just employees; they have as much right to criticize the government as any other citizen. And unless their job descriptions require them to adhere to confidentiality regarding certain well-defined issues, they have a right to criticize the government. A CIA spook has the right to criticize where the new exit for the interstate will be located, no matter what parts of his job he has to be silent about. The ratifiers of the bill of rights saw a certain amount of chaos as necessary to avoid totalitarianism, and they built it into the system. And whistleblower protection statutes exist because it best serves the taxpayers when their government employees can't count on job-mandated secrecy from their co-workers to hide their own misdeeds.

  31. dreampod says

    @Castaigne

    Then civil servants have more rights than we, the civil masters who are taxpayers. I would say that should be something that should definite be reversed in terms of situation. Civil servants, who are sub-citizens, should always have less rights than actual citizens. why should statists have all the fun?

    Civil servants have exactly the same rights as taxpayers (incidentally I'm pretty sure civil servants pay taxes too) – namely the right not to have their speech restricted by the government.

    You have government-as-government and government-as-employer. I differentiate between the two. Clearly, you do not.

    You may differentiate between the two, heck I may differentiate between the two, but the courts do not. Given that the primary issue you raised was whether this is a First Amendment violation, not whether it was morally acceptable, the fact that the courts have been very, very consistently clear that government-as-employer is still the government for the purposes of the First Amendment make it clearly a violation of the law.

    The fact that it is against the law is probably a good thing because otherwise you end up with nonsense like in Canada where scientists who have received government grants aren't permitted to talk to the media about their research if their results contradict the Conservative party's ideology and policies.

  32. King Squirrel says

    Citizens can fire a government – or at least change it's pay, work hours, and job responsibilities – at will. A government cannot do the same.

    Who is the employer in this metaphor again?

  33. says

    "Look, this policy is not intended to suppress speech. I mean, that's what it does, and that's kinda the point, but, I mean, look – you can say whatever you want as long as we approve of it, ok? That's not a First Amendment issue, We're not abridging speech unless we don't like it."

  34. Trent says

    Castaigne, Government workers do not have more rights than you. You cannot be fired by the government for criticizing said government just like they can't be fired for doing the same. The only right in this case is to prevent the government from regulating or taking action against speech and that extends to employees just as it does to any other citizen. If your employer thinks it's appropriate to fire workers for legal behavior outside employment hours then you should find another employer because in my experience such behavior is indicative of a general attitude which is hostile towards employees.

    I'm of the opinion that employers should not be allowed to fire someone for outside work behavior. I personally believe that employers that engage in such behavior aren't worth working for and if more people acted on such feelings said employers would not be able to attract qualified workers and would be forced to alter their behavior. Regardless, everyone has the same right to free speech, thank goodness.