My very modest population of readers may have noticed a change in access related to concerns about a post about an oak savanna in southeastern Wisconsin. That post almost certainly fell well within what are fairly narrow first amendment rights for public-sector employees, because the speech was very clearly and demonstrably made outside of my work duties (e.g. Garcetti ) and it was an issue of public concern that at worst had nominal or theoretical impacts (those inherent to any criticism made) on day to day interactions within the workplace (Pickering / Connick test), let alone that the speech was directed to the condition of a site, rather than any co-worker with which I have daily dealings. Work duties informed my knowledge of the site, but that’s allowed, and none of that information isn’t freely available. The government entity mentioned was not my own and was mentioned only insofar as ownership of the site was concerned. The appeal made based on what I discussed in the post was addressed to “us” as a community. After all, it takes a community, not just a unit or agency of government to successfully conserve a site.
So why did I take it down? I won’t be specific, but I will say that I am reflecting on balancing the concerns those at my place of employment or with cooperating entities might have, because those carry weight, even if outside of their authority, versus what I can legally say or at least should be able to say without threat of consequence to my employment, even where there would be a clear path to legal recourse.
I will make future posts. Free speech of government employees itself is a matter of public concern. While it has the potential to inconvenience government employers or others, it also assures the public that those with the ability to speak to problems can do so. My right to do so is protected so long as I stay within the territory circumscribed by precedent. I know to be careful. I actually was being careful, as far as my rights extend. Now, I will additionally try to avoid other hazards. I’ll keep at least one post out of public view for the time being, and perhaps indefinately, or perhaps I will modify it slightly–all of these options being my prerogative in that case.
Here is a link some additional information from the State Bar of Wisconsin’s website that is helpful in determining whether your speech as a public employee is protected.
In the meantime, one of these would feel pretty good.