09 March 2009

FREE SPEECH SILENCING ATTEMPT!

SPECIAL NOTE TO OUR READERS: This blog entry has been published over at my sister web site, The Interstate 275 Florida Blog. For the convenience of our readers, I am publishing this entry here at The Edward Ringwald Blog as this carries a lot of significance in defending my First Amendment rights to speak my opinion without interference from anyone, including my employer.

By now you have seen the article in the St. Petersburg Times on Friday, 6 March 2009 regarding how dangerous the ramp from southbound Interstate 275 to eastbound Interstate 375 is. Like I mentioned earlier, it was a well done article by St. Petersburg Times staff writer Drew Harwell.

If you haven't already seen my prior blog entry including the update, by all means click on this link. (Internet Explorer 7 users, you may want to right click and open as a new tab and that way you can read this entry and the prior entry side by side).

Now before I go on any further, in order to avoid any retribution by my employer, I am not disclosing who my employer is nor the personnel involved. However, if you are a member of any First Amendment advocacy group that would like to speak with me privately about my First Amendment rights, please contact me. Now on to the story.

While I was at work one of my higher superiors called me into the office to speak to me about my name appearing in the paper. The conversation was not of a congratulatory tone but of a tone that clearly violated my First Amendment rights. Specifically, I was told that:

1. I was not to speak with the St. Petersburg Times at all, period, on or off duty.
2. I must clear everything I speak through my superior.
3. My employer, for all aspects, practically owns me despite my explaining to the contrary.
4. I cannot practically write anything about my hometown anywhere, including my two websites, Interstate275Florida.com and EdwardRingwald.com!

Now please let me explain.

First of all, I was contacted by Drew Harwell at home. I never made any initial contact with Drew from my office. I was contacted because I had a prior blog entry on the March 2007 tanker incident which closed this very same ramp for a few weeks.

I never maintain my Interstate 275 blog or website from work. I only maintain them from home on my personal laptop computer. The same thing goes for EdwardRingwald.com or the Edward Ringwald Blog.

I am fully aware of my employer’s procedures when it comes to any contact with the news media. However, that applies whenever I am on duty and on my employer’s time. When I am off duty (as I am writing this blog entry as we speak) my employer cannot regulate my First Amendment activities when it comes to my blogs or websites. This is compared to a school principal disciplining a student over a student’s personal web page when it is done off of school time and off of school property.

What my employer did on 6 March 2009 was an attempt to silence the First Amendment rights of your Interstate275Florida.com and EdwardRingwald.com webmaster by having a meeting with me that would have led into disciplinary action. Luckily, at this point no disciplinary action was taken but I am not going to let this conversation deter me from speaking with any member of the news media, including the St. Petersburg Times, when I am off duty.

Now here’s another situation which closely borders what I experienced. Take the case of Laura Berg, who was a federal government employee.

Laura wrote an editorial in her weekly hometown newspaper in New Mexico about the Bush Administration’s handling of Hurricane Katrina and the war in Iraq. This would be compared to me speaking with Drew Harwell while I was not on my employer’s time.

In an attempt to silence Laura’s First Amendment rights, her employer investigated her for “an act which potentially represents sedition”, according to an ACLU report on defending First Amendment rights. By comparison, my superior was investigating me for a possible violation of my employer’s policy when in fact no violation had indeed taken place.

Now you see there is a situation that closely borders what I experienced with my employer. Again, I am not letting my employer attempt to put a muzzle on my protected First Amendment rights when it comes to The Interstate 275 Blog or Interstate275Florida.com, as well as the Edward Ringwald Blog or EdwardRingwald.com.

As an American citizen, I do not relinquish my rights upon entering any workplace, and I am free to speak to anyone I want, including the news media. As long as I do it on my own time (which I have done as mentioned earlier), that is fine.

In other words, it is business as usual here at EdwardRingwald.com as well as The Edward Ringwald Blog. Stay tuned.