Government Worker Fired for Signing Pro-Pot Legalization Petition
….and the ACLU of Arizona is helping him sue over it.
Joe Miller, a former Marine and police officer, was working for Mohave County, Arizona's, probation department. He signed on to a letter from Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), in September 2010 calling for California's voters to vote for the pot-legalizing Proposition 19.
Technically, which was an issue in him being fired, his wife via an email they shared agreed on his behalf to put his name on the letter. While Miller did approve of this, once he found out, when he was upbraided by his boss for signing on with his former and current affiliations listed without a disclaimer that it was his personal opinion, not that of the institution he worked for, he at first said that he didn't recall signing it since he had not yet been told by his wife that it happened. This lead the boss to also decide Miller was being dishonest on the matter. (The bottom of the letter did say, for everyone listed, "All agency affiliations are listed for identification purposes only.")
Quoted from the legal complaint over his firing:
The Notice of Dismissal states, among other things, that Mr. Miller "fail[ed] to maintain neutrality in action and appearance when [he] gave permission to the Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) organization to include [his] job title and department 'Deputy Probation Officer, Mohave County Probation Department' with [his] endorsement of a California ballot proposition posted on-line [sic] on September 13, 2010
Miller was initially denied unemployment benefits after being fired. He appealed this denial, and:
On February 7, 2011, a DES [Arizona's Department of Economic Security] administrative law judge found that Mr. Miller had not engaged in any misconduct and found him eligible for unemployment benefits. The ALJ noted that Mr. Miller "was not dishonest when asked about the letter during the department's investigation" and,furthermore, that "a reasonable reader . . . would interpret the letter's disclaimer as making it clear that the [agency] affiliations listed were for the sole purpose of identifying the signatories, and not to suggest that it represented the views of the agencies or departments identified." The DES Appeals Board affirmed the ALJ's decision on April 12, 2011.
He with the Arizona ACLU's help is suing both the county and two superiors involved in his firing, claiming Mohave County violated his First Amendment rights and wrongfully terminated him by firing him merely over his public declaration of support for pot legalization.
The legal complaint.
The offending petition.
My Reason February 2011 feature on the rise and fall of California's Prop. 19.