Prohibiting Public Employees from Holding Office Violates the First Amendment, Says Group

Yarmouth – The ACLU of Maine today raised concerns about the constitutionality of a proposed amendment to the Yarmouth Town Charter. Yarmouth residents will vote in November on the proposal, which would prohibit any employee of the Town of Yarmouth or the Yarmouth School Department from serving on the Yarmouth Town Council.

In a letter to Yarmouth Town Manager Nathaniel Tupper sent today, ACLU legal director Zachary Heiden wrote, “[w]e believe that prohibiting town and school employees from campaigning for and serving on the Yarmouth Town Council would violate those employees’ First Amendment rights.”

The letter sites a 2011 lawsuit brought by two residents of the City of South Portland challenging a restriction on public employees serving on the school board. The Superior Court found in their favor, and the Maine Supreme Judicial Court affirmed that decision.

According to the ACLU’s letter, “[i]f Yarmouth adopts the proposed amendment, it may face litigation on behalf of public employees who wish to serve their community through elected office.”

The full text of the letter is here: