What seems simple to many has become a complex game of words in Mono County – how to tell employees and officials not to politick on the job. After a confusing conversation last week, the Mono Supervisors will bring back the issue next month.
In January, the Mono County Counsel made it clear that County code did not include elected officials in its ban of political activity on the job in county work places. But, when the Mono District Attorney and Sheriff brought their petitions in lieu of filing fees to a County management meeting, eyebrows were raised. Why shouldn’t elected officials play by the same rules as other employees? Mono Supervisor Chairman Larry Johnston asked that this issue come before the Board.
The DA and Sheriff turned up at last week’s meeting and said they made it clear that anyone at the management meeting could sign their petitions or not and could do so at the end of the meeting. At the Board meeting some raised first amendment issues – would regular reports by officials be off limits? Could labor groups use county facilities for union activities? What are the work hours of elected officials?
And so it went for just under an hour of, what one board member called, “convoluted discussion.” County Counsel Marshall Rudolph is tasked with the job of defining politicking versus conversation and what’s “on the job”? Rudolph said most elected officials “view themselves as being available to their constituents 24/7.” He added that “official duties” do not cover very much of elected officials’ working time.
Supervisor Tim Alpers simplified the confusion when he advised common sense. Said Alpers, “If it comes close to a conflict, don’t do it.” Current Mono County Code says, “No one employed by the County will engage in political activities on County premises while engaged in official duties….”
By comparison, Inyo County personnel rules say “employees shall not campaign or conduct any political activity during normal work hours in county facilities.” Regular employees and elected officials, says the Inyo Personnel Director, are included. More at the Mono Board meeting March 11th.