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Public Employees and Political Campaigns
Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010
It is not uncommon for public employees to take vacation days to work on political campaigns. Some key staff may take a leave of absence to devote undivided attention to a candidate.
But when two assistant city clerks worked on election day to support the judicial campaign of the council president's daughter-in-law, others on the Jackson City, Mississippi council called the action unethical.
The context of this charge is important to note: councilmembers are frustrated with Council President Frank Bluntson. Speaking of the charges, one critic said "The only thing I'm interested in is that we fulfill our job with integrity."
Blunston countered by saying the clerks volunteered without being asked. "I didn't ask them. Those people in the clerk's office, when you are nice to them they are nice to you. I don't know what his problem is."
The Mississippi Ethics Commission, while not ruling on this specific case, has stated "there is no prohibition against government employees taking time off from work to participate in a political campaign, as long as they are not pressured to do so."
The investigation into whether or not the employees were asked or encouraged to volunteer is one issue. Separate from that is the leadership struggle in a politically charged council environment.
Do you see a problem here? How would you handle this situation?
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