Lately we’ve seen a rash of alleged campaign violations, from the use of a Hope for Hunger (a nonprofit agency) truck to a volunteer with the Glendale Fire Department going door-to-door handing out campaign literature. Complaints have been filed with the city of Glendale and other appropriate agencies.
In response to one of the alleged complaints Jim Brown, Glendale’s Director of Human Resources and Risk Management, on October 23, 2014 said, ““The City employee policy regarding political activities does not prevent an off-duty union member from participating in political activities on behalf of his/her union.”
Apparently he did not get (or did not read) the Memo from City Attorney Michael Bailey dated November 14, 2013. Mr. Bailey cites Glendale City Code, Section 2-75(b). Political activities and contributions from employees that says, “No employee, other than an elected official, shall engage in any political activity in a Glendale municipal election, except to sign a petition for nomination, to cast a vote, or express a private personal opinion.”
Some of the prohibited activities cited by Bailey are, distribution of campaign material or literature for a candidate or an issue involved in a city election and the posting or placing of campaign signs for a candidate or issue in a city election. He says, “The ordinance (city) also reiterates the state statutory restriction on a city employee influencing other employees or seeking contributions of time or money for a political campaign.” He refers to the United States Supreme Court’s recognition that limitations on political activity serve the public interest of prevention of “a government work force from being employed to build a political machine.”
Nowhere in any of these specific prohibitions is there an exception carved out or an exemption for a local union’s participation in their municipality’s elections. Where is Mr. Brown’s authority to carve out an exemption for a local union member? Upon what legal authority did he base his opinion? We all would be interested in reading the legal opinion that he relies upon.
The Supreme Court, State of Arizona and City of Glendale prohibition from municipal employees participating in their municipal elections is the very reason Valley fire unions have developed a “work around” that has been used for years and years. That is why typically union employees from other cities will contribute money and volunteer to work an election in any city but their own. When the time comes, they, as pay back, will contribute to and work an election in a city from which they received previous help.
There is another and far more serious issue that is finally beginning to surface and that is the Glendale fire union’s political machine. For far too long members of Glendale’s senior management have been aware of the fire union’s political machine. For far too long they have turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to the Glendale fire union’s political activities and its inclination to skirt the edge of campaign law. Even Glendale’s Fire Chief Burdick does not have the muscle (or will) to control the demands and dictates of Glendale’s fire union.
Do not expect anything to change. After all, City Manager Brenda Fischer’s husband was (any may still be) a fire fighter in Henderson, Nevada. Other city employees have relatives who are Glendale fire fighters. It is any wonder that they would be sympathetic to the fire union and its objectives? If it takes political influence to achieve those objectives those who have the power to rein in fire’s political machine appear to have no will or desire to do so.
© Joyce Clark, 2014
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