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home : opinions : letters to the editor
February 23, 2018

2/8/2018 7:28:00 AM
Reader urges RPPA to disband political action committee

To the Editor:

Lo those many years ago when I first became a public employee, I still remember one of the first things I was told, "even though we are not covered by the Hatch Act, we abide by it. We are here to serve the needs of the public, not to gain nor develop political favors. We do not make public policy, we implement it. At the most, we might be asked to serve as experts in our fields to provide information to the policy makers." Henry Hendrickson's advice and counsel has served me well, and while I voted in every election, I did not become politically active until I was no longer a public employee. The Hatch Act was passed in 1939, officially titled "An Act to Prevent Pernicious Political Activities." It is a federal law whose main provision prohibits employees in the executive branch of the federal government, except the president, vice-president, and certain designated high-level officials from engaging in some forms of political activity. It went into law on August 2, 1939. The law was named for Senator Carl Hatch of New Mexico. It was amended a number of times and President Obama signed the Hatch Act Modernization Act of 2012 on December 28, 2012. Through my many years as a public servant, I knew of no public employee in our state who engaged in partisan political activity. Many voted, and most followed the ethical conduct described by Mr. Hendrickson.

A fellow citizen has already commented about his concern regarding the Rhinelander Professional Police Association (RPPA) forming a local political action committee, and voiced a concern about policing the activities of the officers. Who will monitor their use of city facilities and equipment? This issue has been cause for three John Doe probes in Wisconsin, resulting in an even deeper divide in our state politics. These certainly are valid concerns, but leave untouched a concern about even-handed enforcement of the law. It is already known that the public's trust in the police is at an all-time low. It is doubtful that more adverse publicity or even rumors of favoritism, would do either the police or public any benefit. An example: Suppose the candidate who the police endorsed was stopped for erratic driving. Do you suppose that the police officer, upon discovering that the driver was someone who had been endorsed by the Police Association for Public office, would be able to administer justice in an even- handed way? Would the endorsement influence his/her judgement? Suppose that the traffic stop occurred a few hours after a negotiating session between the Police Association and the city.

Kyle Parish, president of RPPA is quoted as saying "People need to appreciate the fact that in order for Rhinelander to continue growing, public safety is a key factor, and having the right partners working toward that goal is critical." Unfortunately Officer Parish didn't have the good fortune to have a conversation with Henry Hendrickson. I wonder when the police became "partners" rather than servants of the public. I urge the members of RPPA to re-think their position and to disband their Political Action Committee. I would recommend that if they as individuals want to have a say about city politics and politicians, that they move into the city and become eligible to vote.

Jim Leschke


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