In an email to staff today, Portland Parks & Recreation director Kia Selley told bureau staff that they won't be given time during their work day to participate in the novel "Get Out the Vote" canvassing effort being launched in Portland City Hall.
As WW reported yesterday, City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly has invited city workers to join her in a nonpartisan GOTV effort on city time. On Nov. 2, the Friday before election day, she'll rally city workers at City Hall and send them out to knock on doors in the late afternoon.
It's illegal for public employees to advocate for or against measures or for a political candidate. But there's nothing preventing them from giving out information on how to vote and where to get nonpartisan information on whom to vote for, as Eudaly's effort aims to do.
Nonetheless, her initiative has raised questions, especially in a heated Oregon election where turnout could decide the governor's race, among others.
Commissioner Nick Fish, who oversees parks, decided that out of "an abundance of caution" to require workers to take time off.
Portland Parks & Recreation is the third bureau where workers will need to ask for time off to participate.
Eudaly's invitation specifically excluded workers from the Water Bureau and the Bureau of Environmental Services, who will also be required to take time off to participate.
That's because the utility bureaus are funded by ratepayers and may run afoul of rules that require those funds to be strictly used for relevant work.
Greg Chaimov, a lawyer with Davis Wright Tremaine, says employees who participate during work hours would not necessarily run afoul of elections law but could present other problems.
"There are laws that require public funds to be used for specific public purposes," says Chaimov. "For someone who is funded by water bills, it might not be appropriate to have that person go out."
Full email from the bureau director is below:
From: Selley, Kia
Sent: Wednesday, October 24, 2018 8:57 AM
To: Parks – Parks and Rec All <ParksandRecAll@portlandoregon.gov>
Subject: Message from the Director – FW: Join Me to Get Out the Vote!
Good afternoon Parks colleagues,
I want to thank Commissioner Eudaly for her leadership in providing this opportunity for City of Portland staff to increase voter participation.
As Commissioner Eudaly's email notes, bureau permission is required to attend the event during City work time. For PP&R staff, if you are interested in participating, please work with your managers/supervisors to receive the necessary approval: while your manager/supervisor may be able to release you from work, it will not be City paid time and this time off will need to go through the typical time off approval process and be deducted from your accrued vacation time.
Please understand that, in some cases, necessary coverage issues may prohibit managers/supervisors from approving vacation time for some staff.