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DEPARTMENT OF ADMINISTRATIVE & FINANCIAL SERVICES
BUREAU OF HUMAN RESOURCES

September 16, 2010

CIVIL SERVICE BULLETIN 13.1K

TO: AGENCY HEADS, HUMAN RESOURCE DIRECTORS
   
SUBJECT: RE-ISSUE OF Political Activity Guidelines For EXECUTIVE Branch Employees (SUPERSEDES CIVIL SERVICE BULLETIN 13.1J)

GENERAL INFORMATION

Political activity of state employees in the Executive Branch is regulated by state and federal law.  The purpose of Civil Service Bulletin 13.1K is to guide state employees in the Executive Branch with their political activity decisions by referencing key political activity laws, by defining which state employees are covered by these laws, and by identifying certain activities that are prohibited and allowed. Civil Service Bulletin 13.1K provides a quick reference for political activity concerns and issues. It is not all-inclusive and is not intended to replace the federal and state laws that govern political activity. State employees in the Executive Branch who have questions after reading these guidelines should read the full text of the state and federal laws and seek legal assistance if necessary.

Generally, the state and federal political activity laws are enacted to:

STATE AND FEDERAL LAWS

The key laws that regulate the political activity of state employees in the Executive Branch are:

NOTE: Classified and unclassified employees who are on an authorized leave from their position remain state employees and continue to be covered by these state and federal laws.  For example, a state employee may not take an unpaid leave of absence and compete in a partisan public election.

ACTIVITIES PROHIBITED BY STATE LAW

State employees covered by Title 5 MRSA, § 7056-A may not:

Note 1: By definition in Title 5 MRSA, § 7056-A, "use of official authority or influence" includes promising to confer or conferring a benefit such as compensation, a grant, contract, license or ruling; effecting or threatening to effect a reprisal, such as deprivation of compensation, a grant, contract, license or ruling; or taking, directing others to take, recommending, processing or approving any personnel action.

Note 2: By definition in Title 5 MRSA, § 7056-A, “political activity” means to advocate expressly for the election or defeat of any candidate for a federal office, a constitutional office or any candidate for partisan elective municipal, county or state office, including leadership positions in the Senate and the House of Representatives or to solicit contributions reportable under Title 21-A MRSA, chapter 13.

Note 3: Employees of the executive branch who are allowed to solicit funds for political purposes by Title 5 MRSA, § 7056-A and who are covered by the federal law are prohibited by this federal law from soliciting funds for political purpose from any other state or local government employee who is covered by this same federal law.

Note 4: Title 5 MRSA, § 7506-A may not be construed to apply to actions taken by an employee to carry out the duties and responsibilities of the employee's position, including but not limited to advocacy on policy issues or legislation.

ADDITIONAL POLITICAL ACTIVITIES PROHIBITED BY STATE LAW

This does not prohibit informal, consensual discussions of political issues by state employees during their break or lunch time.  Further, since Title 21-A MRSA, § 32 (1)(B) does not by its terms apply to speech, it would therefore not preclude the discussion of referenda and other ballot issues in union meetings that are permitted to take place on state property.

In addition to being a Class C crime, such misuse may subject a state employee to discipline up to and including dismissal.

The statutory prohibition against the use of the state’s electronic communications systems for political purposes supersedes any agency policy that may allow limited or incidental use of these facilities for non-work related purposes.

NOTE 1: A “computer system” has the same meaning as that in Title17-A MRSA, §431.  That is, any combination of a computer or computers with the documentation, computer software or physical facilities supporting the computer.

ACTIVITIES PROHIBITED BY FEDERAL LAW

Employees covered by United States Code, Title 5, Chapter 15 may not:

EXAMPLES OF ACTIVITIES PERMITTED BY STATE AND FEDERAL LAW

A major change in 1997 permitted Executive Branch employees to solicit funds for a political purpose as long as the employee does not use the property or facilities of the state for that purpose or misuse his or her position of authority with the state, and as long as other stated conflicts of interest and acts of coercion are avoided.

In addition, as long as employees do not use the property or facilities of the state for these purposes, misuse his or her position of authority with the state, and only engage in these activities on their own personal time, all state employees:

NOTE: Neither state nor federal laws prohibit the wearing of campaign buttons or badges in the work place during normal working hours, but the employing agency may limit this activity.  The employing agency may logically and reasonably differentiate between employees whose work requires frequent public contact and those who seldom meet the public in the performance of their duties.

S/ Joyce A. Oreskovich
Joyce A. Oreskovich, Acting Director
Bureau of Human Resources



1Any election in which candidates are nominated or elected as representing a political party whose candidates for presidential election received votes in the last preceding election at which presidential electors were selected, such as the Democrats or Republicans.