Perhaps you have read Raw Story's article about my recent termination from my job as an editor in the Publications Office at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB).
Lindsay Beyerstein, Larisa Alexandrovna, and the whole Raw Story crew did a world-class job on the story, and I'm continuing to see the profound impact of their work, based on a major spike in traffic to my blog.
The story, I suspect, resonates with people for several reasons. For one, I'm just a regular guy--not a public official or a major contributor to political causes. But people with direct connections to the Bush Justice Department came after me anyway. Why? Because I dared to tell the truth on a blog about their corrupt activities in Alabama. Also, most of us have to work for a living, and I suspect many people can identify with the myriad dangers in the modern workplace. For many workers, I suspect, the greatest fear is being essentially "set up" on the job and fired for something you didn't do--all because of political machinations outside the workplace, in my case. That's what the Raw Story piece is all about.
I had worked at UAB for 19 years and did not even have as much as an oral warning in my personnel file until some folks in the management food chain evidently got nervous about the content of my blog, Legal Schnauzer.
UAB never gave me clear written reasons for my termination. The main charge seems to be that I used university resources to write my blog. This is false, and in fact, I've never touched the first keystroke on my blog while at work. I know because I cannot access my blog without getting into a certain, password-protected e-mail account. And that e-mail account never had been opened on my work computer. In fact, a representative from UAB's IT department confirmed at my grievance hearing that his investigation showed I had never blogged at work.
UAB evidently claims I was "researching" my blog at work. But part of my job description is to keep up with current events, particularly those connected to Alabama. Over a period of two-plus years, the tale of the prosecution of Don Siegelman and Richard Scrushy was the biggest news story in Alabama. And it had direct connections to UAB. Siegelman, as a former governor, was once ex oficio president of the University of Alabama Board of Trustees. And Scrushy unquestionably is UAB's most famous alumnus, a man I've written about (or edited stories about) numerous times.
I was responsible for keeping a story file of ideas that might turn into articles for one or more of our 20-some publications. This research that UAB now calls "now-work related activity" actually was a central part of my work.
What about UAB policy on this kind of thing. Based on my research, UAB has no clear policy about computer usage. I've scoured the You & UAB Handbook from one end to the other, and I can see nothing regarding "researching a blog" or anything else regarding use of the Internet on a university computer. Obviously you don't check porn or gambling sites or anything else that is inappropriate in a work setting. (Although I don't see an actual UAB policy even on that.) But an employee getting fired for keeping up with news when part of his job involves keeping up with news? Sounds nuts to me.
Best I can tell, I was terminated for violating a policy that doesn't exist.
The university does have policies regarding "political activities of university employees" and "safeguarding UAB equipment." But neither of those is applicable to the allegations made against me, and I will explain why in a separate post.
But the facts are clear: I was fired, on the surface, for two "reasons:" (1) Doing part of my job (keeping up with current events connected to Alabama); and (2) "Violating" a policy that doesn't exist. That might sound bizarre to some readers, but we are talking about Karl Rove's Alabama here.
Actually, evidence will show, I was fired because of pressure from sources external to UAB. I am conducting research that gives me a real good idea of where the pressure came from and what was used to apply the pressure. I also have a strong indication that a certain member of the University of Alabama Board of Trustees was involved. I feel certain the plan to get rid of me did not originate at the UAB campus in Birmingham.
That's not to say some strange things haven't happened at UAB and that people at UAB should not be held accountable. Certain folks at UAB have acted almost as if they operate in some sort of parallel universe, where up is down and left is right. How else does a 19-year employee, with nothing but positive job reviews and a history of good relations with people across campus, wind up getting fired.
I clearly was fired for political reasons, some perhaps having to do with internal UAB matters. But the main political reason appears to be the fact that my blog deals critically with the Bush Justice Department and its handling of a number of apparent political prosecutions--particularly the case of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman.
In fact, I have irrefutable evidence, in the form of an audiotaped conversation with a member of the UAB Human Resources staff, that my termination was politically motivated by the fact I write a blog having to do with the Siegelman case. I will be posting that audio in the coming days, and I will be going into many other details about my unlawful termination.
But first, I thought it would be appropriate to show you the human side of the Bush Justice Department scandal.
Most of the victims of the scandal have been public officials (Don Siegelman in Alabama, Cyril Wecht in Pennsylvania, etc.) or financial backers of the Democratic Party (Paul Minor in Mississippi). Mine is the first case I am aware of that involves a regular citizen, a case where someone was targeted merely for writing truthfully about his experiences with corrupt individuals who have ties to the Bush Administration.
So what's it like for a regular guy to be a target of a corrupt administration? What's it like to lose your job simply for speaking out about matters of public concern?
We invite you to come along for a peak at life inside the "Schnauzer den." First, here is an introduction:
Next is a clip about two important characters from the animal kingdom who add a lot to our household:
Next is a clip about some of my interests, mainly from the world of sports and music. As a child of the 1970s, I'm into music from artists like The Eagles, John Fogerty, Lindsey Buckingham, plus Birmingham's own Taylor Hicks:
Also, we have a clip about my wife's eclectic tastes, which range from Scottish history to music by everyone from Glenn Miller to Barbra Streisand to the Village People.
Finally, we have a clip about the kind of issues that matter most in SchnauzerWorld. And they have nothing to do with the law.