AG: City workers free to give money to council, mayoral campaigns

By Howard Fischer | Capitol Media Services  

Cities can’t bar their employees from contributing to races for city council and mayor, Attorney General Mark Brnovich concluded Thursday.

In a formal opinion, Brnovich said a ban on such donations on its workers violates their constitutional rights. But the attorney general said it is permissible for cities to prohibit their employees from working directly on a candidate’s campaign.

Thursday’s opinion specifically applies to a Phoenix city ordinance. But the effects reach into every other community with a similar restriction.

“The act of contributing money to a candidate is a significant form of political expression that involves First Amendment rights,” Brnovich said.

He acknowledged that governments do have some rights to regulate employee conduct.

“Nonetheless, the Supreme Court has made clear that public employees do not surrender all their First Amendment rights by reason of their employment,” Brnovich wrote, quoting from a 2006 opinion from the nation’s high court. “Rather, the First Amendment protects a public employee’s right, in certain circumstances, to speak as a citizen addressing matters of public concern.

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