ACLU Urges Warwick City Council to Amend Ordinance Barring Some City Workers from Running for Office

Posted: Jun, 17, 2014

The American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island has urged Warwick City Council to amend an ordinance barring certain city employees from running for office after a worker faced losing his job if he ran for a seat in the United States Senate.

Warwick’s telecommunications supervisor Raymond McKay had planned to launch a campaign for U.S. Senate this year, but was told he could not run while employed by the city because of an ordinance barring classified city employees from seeking election to any office.  While the ACLU is a non-partisan organization, it has long promoted the right of public employees to participate in the political process.

In a letter sent to Council President Donna Travis Friday, the ACLU of RI said the ordinance violates a state law explicitly recognizing the right of municipal employees to run for office and unfairly bars some employees from running, but not others. While a classified employee such as Mr. McKay cannot seek election, unclassified employees, which include high ranking employees of the police and school departments, and attorneys working as legal counsel for city authorities, are free to run for the office that he cannot.

In the letter to Council President Travis, ACLU of RI executive director Steven Brown said that the city ordinance “serves only to unduly impede the free speech rights of city employees to participate in public service as candidates and elected officials. As the state law also recognizes, there is a world of difference between running for office in the same municipality in which the person is employed, which can understandably create conflicts, and seeking election in other venues.”

The ACLU urged the Warwick City Council to amend the ordinance in order to prevent this issue from further interfering with candidates in future elections.