An election-year decision regarding employee behavior in political campaigns was postponed for further discussion by the Oro Valley Town Council last Wednesday, Jan. 20.
The council unanimously voted to delay a vote on a proposed change to the town's employee code regarding participation in election-related activities. Employees recently were notified they couldn't get involved in local elections, other than to vote if they live in Oro Valley.
"I'm in the role of the messenger and you know what happens to the messenger," said Tobin Rosen, Oro Valley town attorney.
Rosen said similar policies had been in place in the town since at least 1993. The rules place certain restrictions on the political activities of employees, whether on or off the clock.
Councilman Al Kunisch asked that the item appear on the agenda, having taken exception to the town limiting the activities of employees in their personal time.
"When they're off the clock, they have the right to go about any political activity," Kunsich said. "When people are hired by the town, they don't give up their First Amendment rights."
Councilwoman Salette Latas noted that many professional associations that town employees may belong to, such as the International City/County Managers Association, forbid members from donating to political causes or getting involved in campaign activities.
Latas also said that when she was running for office, she was cognizant of the conflict employees could face if she solicited support from them.
"I wanted to avoid any pressure of town employees," Latas said.
Kunisch moved to have the council remove the items in employee policies that prohibit any political activities. That motion failed. The council later decided, unanimously, to have town staffers further investigate the issue and see how the Oro Valley policy compares with other Arizona local governments.
The council plans to revisit the issue at its first regularly scheduled meeting in February, to be held Feb. 17.
Search for new manager is on
With little discussion, the council voted unanimously to begin the search for qualified firms that would help the town hire a new town manager.
The council chose to hire a firm that would conduct internal and external searches for a new manager. The process could stretch up to nine months.
It is anticipated the town would spend about $46,000 on the process.
The search for a new manager was predicated by the resignation of Town Manager David Andrews, who left Oro Valley employment in September 2009.
Since that time, Assistant Town Manager Jerene Watson has filled in on an interim basis.