The Herald Bulletin

Evening Update


March 22, 2014

Editorial: Political firings suit will be costly to Anderson

When he won election in 2011 to his second term as Anderson's mayor, Kevin Smith purged many of those from city government who had actively supported his opponent, incumbent Kris Ockomon.

You can't blame a mayor for wanting to surround himself with political allies while rousting the foxes from the hen house. But, on the other hand, we're talking about people's jobs here.

And shouldn't a city employee be able to support the candidate of their choice without fear of being fired?

Ten of those former employees, who are suing the city for violation of their First Amendment rights by terminating their jobs for political reasons, won an important victory against Smith and the city recently in a ruling of the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Indiana. The court denied the city's motion for summary judgment.

Basically, the city had argued that the suit was without merit and should be dismissed. But the court ruled that the city had failed to demonstrate that any of the 10 workers held positions where political loyalty was a necessary employment qualification.

So it looks like this could become a protracted legal battle for the city, and you know who foots the bill for that: The taxpayers.

Back in 2011, Smith won a bitter election against Ockomon, who had defeated him four years earlier when Smith first ran for reelection. Upon starting his second term, Smith seemed determined to congeal his power by shedding those who might sew dissension from within city government.

He might have gone too far. The courts will decide. But one thing's for certain — it's going to be costly.

In summary Anderson Mayor Kevin Smith might have gone too far in firing political foes from city jobs. The courts will decide.

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