Can a Federal Employee write Opinion Pieces? Even worse, can the article be partisan?
By Marvin Pirila
When some people circulated the idea that it was a violation of the Hatch Act for me to write on politics, I let it go. When someone suggested I had been previously disciplined, I also let it go. I knew who it was and contrary to her opinion, the fact is that it is absolutely untrue. When I previously ran for county commissioner, I consulted with Labor and the Human Resources department. Then, as now, I was authorized to run as a non-partisan candidate in what was a non-partisan election. Everything was authorized and above board. When letters were sent to my federal employer with the intent of silencing my constitutional right, I felt it was time to clear the air.
A government employee may run for election that is non-partisan, as long as they remain non-partisan. They may join a partisan group outside of work, and may even write their opinion on any group they desire. This does not reflect whatsoever on their place of employment, particularly a separate entity altogether. It is a personal opinion every individual is entitled to by the Constitution. Those that would silence my voice would soon find theirs silenced as well.
The Hatch Act, United States Code 7321 through 7326, specifically outlines what is and isn’t allowed by Federal Employees. These include:
• May be candidates for public office in nonpartisan elections
• May express opinions about candidates and issues
• May attend and be active at political rallies and meetings
• May join and be an active member of a political party or club
• May campaign for or against candidates in partisan elections
• May make campaign speeches for candidates in partisan elections
• May not use their official authority or influence to interfere with an election [writing distinctly as an editor is authorized]
• May not wear political buttons on duty
• May not knowingly solicit or discourage the political activity of any person who has business before the agency
The position of editor is distinctly separate from my Postmaster position and I would implore individuals to treat it the same. If you disagree with what I have to say, use your freedom of expression to write a letter to the editor. No letters have been withheld from printing because of a difference of opinion. In fact, the readership benefits from other perspectives. Rather than trying to stifle freedom, try to engage it, and contribute to it.
As Veteran’s Day approaches, this topic stirs memories of the millions who have died for the fight for freedom. Everything they sacrificed was in the name of freedom and yet we have many citizens today who don’t or will not honor its meaning. All aspects of freedom aren’t comfortable to everyone, because there will always be differences of opinion, thought, and belief. None are necessarily wrong, but rather come from different inputs (life, family, influences, education, awareness, etc.). Democracy is built on opposing views, debate, and decisions. It all fails, when the voices of the citizenry are silenced. Look no farther than Russia, China, and the Mideast for the life you would have without your voice.