Rank-and-file employees are protected from political terminations

As the Charleston Gazette recently pointed out, rank-and-file employees are protected from political terminations when a new administration takes over. Here is the editorial from the January 12, 2017 Charleston Gazette:

Gazette editorial: Back to the dirty spoils system?

Under the ancient “spoils system,” newly elected politicians fired multitudes of longtime government employees, so they could give public jobs to their campaign supporters. It was a sordid practice that hampered professionalism in government.

In 1976, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that such ousted government workers — except for top decision-makers — could sue for wrongful loss of their careers. The court verdict mostly wiped out the spoils system.

However, some slow-learning West Virginia politicos continued the old travesty. During the 1980s, several county courthouses were hit by lawsuits from dumped workers, and taxpayers were forced to cough up hundreds of thousands for damages. Now, we wonder if incoming Secretary of State Mac Warner knows that the old spoils system has been outlawed. He seems to be following it precisely.

Warner gave defeated Secretary of State Natalie Tennant a list of 16 staff members he plans to dismiss. His list includes some top decision-makers, but also many rank-and-file workers with long service — the type who are legally entitled to sue if fired for political purposes. They are dedicated veterans who have served West Virginia for decades under multiple elected officials and know government procedures well. At first, Warner claimed he was “downsizing” the office to operate on a smaller budget — but then he said he will replace 14 of the firing victims, which would erase savings. He contradicted himself. If Warner proceeds with his announced plan, everyone must watch to see if his 14 replacements are Republican loyalists who campaigned for him. It’s highly likely that some dismissed workers will sue — and highly likely they will win. West Virginia taxpayers could pay dearly for political chicanery. If this dreary old scenario replays itself, justice should require that Warner personally pay the court damages. But litigation doesn’t work that way. Instead, taxpayers will hold the bag.

See more at: http://www.wvgazettemail.com/gazette-editorials/20170112/gazette-editorial-back-to-the-dirty-spoils-system#sthash.i0OQIx3A.dpuf

For more information, contact Preston & Salango (wvlawyer.com) at 304-342-0512.

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