A Gag Order - 27 East


Southampton Press / Opinion / Letters / 2078949

A Gag Order

Absent matters of national security, no American should be constrained from exercising the First Amendment privilege and protection that is their birthright. Nor ever be bureaucratically bullied into signing away something they should fight to uphold.

Enter the picayune Village of Southampton, hard on the heels of its slapstick recent performances. Raring to discuss its “information technology policy,” and specifically Section H, “Media Contacts,” the board fell to its usual squabbling while the administrator clarified what was being proposed, though a lawyer was present [“Southampton Village Mayor, Trustees Debate Media Contacts Procedures in Updated IT Policy,” 27east.com, February 15].

What is being proposed is to muzzle employees (nonunion ones, that is) to keep them from speaking to “the media” on behalf of their village — their work, that is — or on anything else they may wish to bring to the public’s attention. What also is being simultaneously demanded of full-time employees is a “loyalty oath,” where they are asked to ascribe to conduct and behavior expected of them as village employees, with respect to “village’s IT systems and equipment, as well as access and usage of the internet, email and social media.”

To add serious insult to serious injury, as clarified by the present administrator, any utterance must be cleared by the present administrator — herself under criticism and waging a lawsuit against the village for creating a hostile work environment. Ceding oversight over free speech to her is not to control the flow of information, she states, but to “ensure that accurate and appropriate information is being released.”

Don’t be gulled. This is an attempt to stifle criticism of any kind, not to “ensure accuracy.” After all, any inaccuracy can be corrected.

Matters of free speech are not to be subsumed and degraded under technological policies, nor dictated by insurance companies seeking to capitalize (as always) on acts of God and cyberattacks, and in so doing give this contractual sop to municipalities — censorship for lower payments. And how about questioning “labor attorney” Vince Toomey’s “template” and his recommendations, in public?

No self-respecting person should sign this loyalty oath and allow another diminution of a precious freedom. Freedom goes in tiny ways, and this is a giant step. This disgusting oath-penalty to work would institute two sets of employees: one required to sign into silence, one protected to speak at will by the union. (Anyone spot a future lawsuit?)

Gag orders are usually imposed as a condition of large cash awards, such as the one signed by Stormy Daniels — and even she gagged on hers and came out against it. What is at stake here is much larger than money. So, village employees, sign nothing. Instead, speak up, speak out — speak to any media as much as you like.

Frances Genovese