Council takes up political speech again - The Explorer: Pima Pinal

Council takes up political speech again

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Posted: Wednesday, February 17, 2010 12:00 am | Updated: 8:11 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

As the election season wears on, Oro Valley officials seek a way to weigh employee's free speech rights while minimizing the politicization of daily work at town hall.

The issue came up in January, after complaints surfaced that a town employee may have distributed campaign materials on behalf of a candidate for town council, or had sought co-workers' signatures for a candidate's petition to run for office. Town officials have not identified the employee.

The issue was continued at the Jan. 27 council meeting. The council takes up the matter again at its meeting this Wednesday, Feb. 17.

According to employment guidelines, town workers are prohibited from engaging in political activities in town elections. That includes handing out political materials, seeking signatures for petitions and soliciting financial support for candidates or causes.

Employees also can't work for campaigns or use their positions with the town to influence an election or solicit support.

Oro Valley Town Councilman Al Kunisch has been outspoken in his opposition to the policy, calling it a potential violation of employees' rights.

"I think it's ridiculous," Kunisch said.

The discussion at the Jan 27 council meeting highlighted areas of uncertainty in the code, including the displaying of political signs at employees' homes.

Kunisch recommends the town institute similar rules that the state has regarding political activities of employees. State laws similarly forbid employees from working on campaigns but differ in that they permit workers to circulate petitions, make contributions, solicit for contributions and advocate for and against candidates.

Town Attorney Tobin Rosen provided the council with excerpts of employee code from several Arizona cities to guide the council's decision.

His recommendation for the council was to change the code to read the following: "No employee may circulate nomination or recall petitions, serve as an officer or agent of a candidate's campaign committee, or serve as member of a political committee to support or oppose the election of any candidate in an Oro Valley municipal election."

The town council meets Wednesday, Feb. 17 at 6 p.m. at Oro Valley Town Hall, 11000 N. La Cañada Drive.

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