Around 9 a.m. on December 24, 2008, Acting Harris County District Attorney Ken Magidson called me into his office and told me (for the second time in a month) that I was fired.
"I'm firing you for what you wrote on your blog. It's too much."
He actually uttered those words.
Under the circumstances, I was caught off guard. I was already planning on that day being my last at the Office and taking comp time for the remainder of 2008. My contract wasn't going to be renewed so I was done effectively at midnight on December 31st, anyway.
But getting fired cost me some money. There was no taking comp time if you didn't work there anymore. I think all in all, Magidson's decision to pull the trigger as an early Christmas present cost me around $4,000. Given the fact that I was going through a divorce and had child support looming, that was kind of a kick in the financial crotch.
Over the past eleven years since that fateful day, I've revisited the idea of whether or not I should have filed a lawsuit on many occasions. I thought about it. In the end I decided it really wasn't worth the effort. My life was going through a reboot at the time, and adding the pet project of a lawsuit wasn't really all that appealing.
There is still a part of me that wishes I had, because when Magidson uttered those words, he was telling me that he was terminating my employment because of words I had written -- outside of work -- while expressing my opinion. Sometimes I wish I had made a different decision at the time, just for the principle of defending my 1st Amendment rights. On occasion, I get really angry at 2008 Me for not doing that.
I bring this up now for a couple of reasons.
Campaign season is upon us, and as I have mentioned before, there are already six candidates lined up to challenge incumbent District Attorney Kim Ogg for her job. Several of those candidates are immensely more popular with prosecutors at the Office than Ogg is. Given their druthers, most prosecutors that I know (and I know a whole lot of prosecutors) would love nothing more than to support the candidate of their choice.
But unfortunately, they work for Kim Ogg. And as Ogg demonstrated last month by firing Andrew Smith, she is not afraid to fire an employee for blatantly unethical (and quite possibly illegal) reasons. Although the job of a prosecutor is to seek justice, in Ogg's paranoid world, the primary job is to be loyal to her. As she demonstrated with Andrew, she ain't afraid to shank somebody for crossing her.
As a result of Kim's erratic and ruthless behavior, don't expect to see too many current prosecutors exercising their 1st Amendment right to support a candidate other than her Royal Oggness. Ogg's level of paranoia and retaliatory nature make Pat Lykos seem like Mahatma Gandi. And keep in mind that Lykos had some of her loyalists staking out fundraising events for Mike Anderson, and she also seriously jacked with Carvana Cloud to retaliate against Carvana's support of Clarence Bradford for D.A.
I would imagine that Kim Ogg will be far more retaliatory towards any employee that she finds supporting any other candidate. I say this in advance because I hope that nobody thinks that a lack of current prosecutors showing up at fundraisers for other candidates means that they don't support those other candidates. They just don't want to get fired for that support.
From the outside, looking in, it is easy for critics to say, "Well, if they hate working for Kim Ogg so much, why don't they just quit?" I heard that line a lot in 2012 when Mike Anderson was running against Lykos. I'm sure we'll hear it again over the next few months. It was a stupid criticism then and it would be equally stupid now. Losing a job is a devastating event -- especially when you have a family to support and need things such as money and insurance.
Not to mention being a prosecutor is a fantastic job. One can be loyal to the job without being loyal to the paranoid despot who is the current District Attorney.
If you are a current employee of the Harris County District Attorney's Office and you don't want to risk your job by supporting another candidate, there are still many things that you can do to give support.
First and foremost, tell your family, friends, and neighbors your thoughts in private conversations. Let them know what you think of your current boss and tell them why you think somebody else would make a better choice. Encourage those same family, friends, and neighbors to learn more about those candidates and attend those fundraisers and "meet and greets" that you can't safely attend. Let them know why you can't speak out in public, but find a way to educate them. Encourage THEM to make a donation since you can't.
Although I don't know if this is still the current law, back in 2012, a candidate only had to list a donor who gave $50.00 or more to a campaign. There were a lot of folks who donated $49.99 to Mike Anderson's campaign back then. You don't have to go out in a blaze of glory by starting a blog that bashes Ogg or anything stupid like that, but you can still help other candidates if you so choose.
Sometimes, those little gestures of support are far more sincere and powerful than any donation or attendance at a fundraiser.