One week into Governor Mitt Romney's administration, a stern letter was sent to Massachusetts Environmental Police officers: Under no circumstances were they to speak to the news media or to state legislators about policy matters in the department. Employees who engaged in authorized conversations would be disciplined, the memo said.
A similar missive warned employees of the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife: ''Please advise any media representatives that call you that you are unable to assist them at this time.'' ...
As many as 40 of 60 press secretaries at state agencies could be removed in the coming weeks, as their duties are absorbed in an expanded governor's press operation, which will be headed by Eric Fehrnstrom, a top campaign aide. Legislative liaisons and lawyers who previously worked for state agencies will join the governor's office, as the administration tries to block what officials described as cross-messages, such as managers lobbying against state agencies suing one another.
Employees are not only supposed to keep from informing the public (through reporters) about what is going on at their agencies, but they are also supposed to ignore or defer even direct inquiries from the legislative branch, which has many of them hopping mad:
Some worry that they cannot advocate, even on their own time, for preservation of environmental programs or their jobs or talk to lawmakers to urge funding.
Several contacted the advocacy group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility to speak out against a memo that warned them not to speak out.
''This is a sad sign when you attempt to take the constitutional rights away from your employees,'' said one of those employees, who spoke on condition of anonymity. ''There's a sense that this is a rather dictatorial administration.''
The state constitution guarantees people the right to ask their legislators for ''redress of the wrongs done them and of the grievances they suffer,'' said Kyla Bennett, director of the New England chapter of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.
Good to see that our local Republicans are as firmly committed to their vision of democracy as their fellow partisans in the White House...