By Terry Miller
Now you see it, now you don’t.
The badge, that is. The Arcadia Police badge, visible in a Bob Harbicht campaign photo was altered several times earlier last week after cries of political foul. From a visible badge to a thumb placed over the offending badge via photoshop to an invisible badge.
Lisa Mussenden, Elections Official and Chief Deputy City Clerk/Records Manager sent out the following memo as a direct result of complaints about one candidate’s approach in his election campaign. Special thanks to our friends at Sierra Madre Tattler who originally broke this story.
“Due to inquiries received about certain restrictions regarding employees campaigning for candidates for office or regarding ballot measure, and doing so at City building locations, the below has been prepared by City Attorney Stephen Deitsch and is being circulated to the Mayor and City Council, and all City Council Candidates.
Generally, employees have First Amendment “free speech” rights to endorse and campaign for candidates for office and regarding ballot measures. However, they must do so on their own time and using their own resources, NOT on City time or using City resources.
Arcadia City Charter Section 905 provides, in pertinent part:
“No City employee shall take any part in any political campaign while in a uniform bearing the insignia or name of the City of Arcadia. No person shall use the administrative offices and facilities of the City for the purpose of furthering a political campaign for public office.”
Pursuant to Section 905, employees may, for example, appear in a picture endorsing or campaigning for a candidate for office or regarding a ballot measure. However, in doing so, they must not wear a uniform bearing the insignia or name of the City, at least to the extent that the insignia or name is clear and identifiable. That would include a badge, such as a police or firefighter badge – again at least to the extent that the badge is clear and identifiable.
Finally, Section 905 clearly prohibits using City offices and supplies (e.g., meeting rooms, staff offices, phones, computers, and printers) to campaign for candidates for elective office or ballot measures. It is significantly less clear that Section 905 prohibits using City Hall, the City Police Department Headquarters, the City Library, or the City Fire Department Headquarters (or stations) as a backdrop for picture-taking for campaigns.
These are buildings, often having identifiable names or insignia, which can easily be viewed and pictured from public areas at any time. Section 905 probably does not forbid picture-taking for campaign purposes using the publicly viewed exterior of such buildings. On the other hand, using a City police vehicle or fire vehicle as a backdrop for an election-related photograph is arguably using City property for campaign purposes in violation of Section 905.
If any person believes that a violation of State statute occurs during an election campaign, a complaint may be filed by such person with the Fair Political Practices Commission.