Gardner city council has lately developed a penchant for tweaking and adjusting the city’s employee policies and procedures manual. In the last few months, the council has added or removed employee classifications or added revisions that, on the face of it, seem unnecessary.
The latest iteration is a revision to the section in the manual that deals with political activities by city employees.
The 2108 edition of the section states that employees are not prohibited from supporting candidates for office, or from contributing labor to candidates and organizations that endorse candidates. However, city employees are not permitted to make public endorsements of a candidate for city elective office. Further, the manual prohibits employees from wearing or displaying political badges, buttons or signs on their person or on city property during on duty hours.
But, as if that was not clear enough, the council, during its May 20 meeting summoned its legislative brain trust to add a paragraph that notes that nothing in the policy is meant to prohibit an employee from wearing or displaying political badges, buttons or signs on their person or personal property while off duty.
According to Alan Abramovitz, HR manager, the revisions were reached after extensive consultations with the city’s personnel attorney, of course to some taxpayer expense.
City elections are later this year with at least three seats up for grabs.
City employees form a sizeable chunk of the local electorate. Whether the revisions to the personnel manual are related to the political events about to unfold, we may never know. What we know is that the council seems to dream up changes overnight, and some of those changes carry with them a whiff of expediency.
It seems unfair to put employees in a “pawn” position. What happens if an employee declines to allow his employer – elected officials – to put a sign in his/her yard, or declines to voice public support?