Now, please keep in mind the irony of having Pat Lykos, who acted with all the social graces of a toothless, one-legged barfly in a Louisiana roadhouse during the 2008 election, advise anyone on the proper way to conduct an above-board campaign. She took more comp time off from her county job to campaign and campaign dirty than probably any other candidate on the trail.
But the new Lykos policy for her employees seems to be a threatening new memo that infringes on all of their First Amendment rights. Here are some of the highlights:
1. The first paragraph of the policy prohibits any campaign material from being handed out or displayed at the Office. That particular part is nothing new, but the Lykos policy goes a step further, dictating that no employee may receive any materials (including e-mails) from a candidate at the Office. Now, perhaps her generational technology gap keeps her from understanding how e-mail works, but someone needs to update Lykos on the fact that you can't really control what people send you on the e-mail.
Furthermore, you can't control what people send you through the U.S. Mail, either. Many attorneys at the D.A.'s Office have their office address listed with the State Bar as their preferred mailing address rather than their home addresses. Are those employees going to be punished when a computer generated mailing list puts campaign literature on their desk?
Or will Lykos just issue an edict that interferes with the delivery of the U.S. Mail?
2. The next paragraph states that employees "may express a private opinion during off-work hours concerning any candidate or political issue, but it should be made clear the expression is a private opinion and in no way represents the Harris County District Attorney's Office." Wow. So, my friends still with the Office, just remember that if over dinner you decide to tell your spouse that you think taxes are too high, that you also state "That's just me talking, and in no way represents the views of the Harris County District Attorney's Office."
3. Any person seeking to run for Office must first clear it with Lykos before "taking any affirmative step toward becoming a candidate". Are you freaking kidding me? Sure, it would probably be in better taste to let your boss know you are running, but under what authority does she make it a pre-requisite that an aspiring candidate get her blessing before running? I don't think that decision is up to the District Attorney, is it? As a matter of fact, an employee of hers can decide that they are going to run against Lykos if they want to, and she doesn't get to stop them (or fire them) for doing so.
Also, isn't Lykos' demand that a candidate come check with her first make Lykos a de facto consultant on the wisdom of that decision? And wouldn't that requirement mean that they would be discussing politics in Lykos' office? Seems like this rule would contradict Rule # 1.
4. The District Attorney's name may not be mentioned in campaigning without her express permission. Well, I guess you ADA candidates can just say that you work for "She who must not be named."
5. She makes the fair point that campaigning should not take precedence over a prosecutor's case load. That's fine, but quite hypocritical if you look at how much time she took off from her county job to campaign for D.A. in 2008. Then again, I never really thought she had many work duties in her old job.
6. Regarding your conduct on the Campaign Trail, "Statements discrediting a fellow employees will be subject to review to determine whether they were made with knowing or reckless falsity of bad faith."
Well, that's going to pretty much put the kibosh on anyone going to Terry Lowry. Lowry, who many of you remember from his homophobic and hateful spewing of gossip in the 2008 & 2010 elections is the king of mudslinging and dirty campaigning. He was also somebody that Lykos went running to when she campaigned in 2008. I wonder if she'll ban herself from using him this political season.
And finally, Lykos wraps up her memo with what she does best: threatening her employees.
"An employee's participation in political activities in no way alters the employee's status as an at-will employee. The District Attorney's Office and the employee retain the mutual right to terminate the employment relationship at any time and for any reason, notwithstanding the adoption of this policy allowing participation in political activities."
So, just so we're clear, Pat, you've listed an entire memorandum completely cutting through your employees' First Amendment Rights, but then follow it up with the catch-all of "if you do anything else I don't like, I can fire you anyway."
What a great place to work.
The thing that strikes me as most interesting is why did Lykos generate this new policy? Clearly, there is some prosecutor or prosecutors running that she doesn't approve of, so she is doing her best to diminish their ability to do so.
Quite frankly, I think her new policy is a Civil Rights Violation.
What do y'all think?