Friday, September 5, 2008

Irony in Palin Story Hits Close to Home

The Sarah Palin story is rich with irony, and we can identify with some of it on a personal level here at Legal Schnauzer.

Regular readers know that I was fired on May 19 from my job as an editor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). I had worked at UAB for 19 years, the last 12 under the same supervisor in the Office of Periodicals. That kind of longevity should be a pretty good indicator that I knew how to do my job, how to follow university policy, how to conduct myself, and how to get along with my supervisor and coworkers.

But UAB still managed to find grounds to fire me, although the university never could state those grounds clearly in writing. From the vague written communications I've received, UAB's main charge seems to be that I used my work computer, state property, for political purposes in writing my blog.

There are only a few problems with UAB's story:

* The university's own investigation of my computer use showed I had not written the first word on my blog while on UAB time or with my work computer;

* UAB's own definition of "political activity" includes actions on behalf of a political candidate, organization, or campaign. I've done none of those three things on my blog; and

* In a tape recorded conversation, a director in UAB's human resources department indicated that I had been targeted not because of any misconduct or policy violations but because I wrote a blog that dealt critically with the Bush Justice Department, particularly its handling of the Don Siegelman case.

As someone who has been wrongfully accused of misusing state resources, I was more than a little interested in this recent report from Jason Leopold at The Public Record.

Leopold reports that according to public records, while serving as mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, Palin:

* Used city computers to manage her campaign for lieutenant governor;

* Billed taxpayers for mailings, phone calls, and literature;

* Had her secretary print thank-you notes to campaign donors and book a campaign-related trip while on city time;

* Had her campaign staff work up to 10 hours a day at Wasilla City Hall, which became her campaign headquarters. Campaign faxes were sent and received and donations were solicited using city equipment;

And talk about irony: Palin reported fellow Republican Randy Ruedrich for alleged ethical breaches involving a state computer and hacked into his computer to get evidence. This is mostly what the McCain campaign is referring to when it says Palin stood up to corruption in Alaska.

Leopold, however, shows that Palin herself was corrupt.

When asked to explain how Ruedrich's misuse of a state computer was different from her misuse of a city computer, Palin said, "Not the same."

Oh, really? That's the kind of nonsensical responses I've received from UAB.

So what's the bottom line?

In Alabama, evidence strongly suggests that individuals with connections to the Alabama Republican Party (and, in some instances, Karl Rove) helped concoct a bogus case against me, even though UAB's own evidence shows I did nothing wrong regarding my work computer.

In Alaska, the governor has a clear record of misusing public property for political purposes. But Republicans raise the roof with cheers when she speaks this week in Minnesota.

Irony, indeed.


John of Indiana said...

Wow. I work for a "small Midwestern University" that brags about how many astronauts they've graduated, and in the last 2 weeks the HR goons have sent out 2 notices reiterating the U's "Political Activity" policy. Some of us thought this was unusual and a bit heavy-handed, joking that "perhaps some Limbot got pissy over an Obama mug in the break room", but after reading about what has happened to you, my blood just went cold.
It's not just about coffee cups, mouse pads and political buttons stuck to the cube wall anymore, is it?
I'm sorry for the trouble you're going through, but at the same time I'm grateful that you may have just saved my ass or somebody I knows ass.

legalschnauzer said...

Thanks so much for writing. It's always interesting to hear from fellow higher-education types.

In case you haven't seen it, here is Raw Story's piece about my termination:

Chronicle of Higher Education also picked up on the story:

If you scroll down toward the end of the comments on Chronicle story, you will see where UAB PR guy released the president's statement about my termination.