Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Oro Valley Council Approves New Code As It Pertains to Employees & Elections

As reporter in The Explorer.(below) the OV Council approved a new code to clarify how employees may be or may not be involved in supporting candidates for election.

Political activities defined

The issue of what, if any, political activities town employees can engage in has been debated for the past few months.

The council asked Town Attorney Tobin Rosen at the Jan. 20 meeting to advise on any restrictions against employees engaging in political activity, such as volunteering on campaigns, collecting signatures or donating money.

The council voted to have the issue delayed until last Wednesday. Council members asked for examples of how other Arizona municipalities handle employee politicking.

"Reading the policies, I think it's fair to say it's all over the map," Rosen told the council.

He told the council that Oro Valley's policy appeared to have been taken verbatim from the city of Scottsdale.

Councilman Al Kunisch suggested the town adopt a policy similar to that enforced by state government. That policy forbids state employees from acting as officers in political campaigns or managing elections of recall efforts.

State employees can sign petitions and make and solicit campaign contributions.

"I would have a severe issue with people being solicited at town hall," Councilman Bill Garner said, who also said he would have issues with town employees circulating petitions.

The revised town code mirrors state law, with the exception of forbidding Oro Valley employees from circulating political petitions at work. All the prohibitions apply to Oro Valley municipal elections, including running for local elected office.

The following change to town code was accepted unanimously: "Employees may not be members of political committees, officers of partisan political committees or nominees for paid elective office. Employees may not take part in the management or affairs of political parties, campaigns or recall efforts. Employees may express opinions, attend meetings, vote, sign nomination or recall petitions and advocate for election or defeat of candidates."


Victorian Cowgirl said...

I'm about to cause some trouble but I need some clarification (as I often do when trying to decipher the wording of policies and legal language.)

"Employees MAY NOT take part in the .....affairs of.....campaigns."

"Employees MAY.....advocate for election or defeat of candidates."

But aren't I taking part in the affairs of a campaign (not allowed) if I distribute fliers door-to-door which could be considered as advocating for the election of a candidate (allowed)?

The language seems ambiguous to me, therefore opening the door for a loophole.

Sorry, but I had to ask.

Dan H. said...

Good question. As an attorney, here is my take on the issue: It seems that what the policy is getting at is that Town employees cannot join political committees or be nominees for paid elective office. They also cannot participate in management or affairs of political parties or campaigns.

However, they CAN express opinions, go to meetings, and advocate for the election/defeat of candidates.

While ambiguous, I would say the spirit of the policy is that Town employees CANNOT become intrinsically involved in political parties or campaigns pertaining to local elective office, but they CAN opine, attend meetings, and advocate for/against local candidates in their own individual regards, and NOT as members/participants of a greater political party/campaign endeavor.

It’s a fine, fine line. The policy is aiming to prevent Town employees from becoming high profile participants in campaigns and political parties directly concerned with local Town politics.

However, the policy does provide for Town employees to advocate for/against local candidates and express opinions regarding such, so long as such activity is not entangled with an organized campaign and/or political party.

That’s how I read it, and obviously others may disagree. The policy does not provide a bright line rule on the issue, and is certainly ambiguous.

-Dan Huff