Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Conflicts of interest vs. free speech

Maricopa County, AZ, is the talk of the blogosphere today after the County Manager decided he wanted to know who was talking to bloggers.

Apparently, there is a dispute between the Manager/County Supervisors and the County Attorney's office (which is supposed to represent the other elected officials) and, as part of lawsuits between the two, the 'client' wants to know if the 'legal representative' has a conflict of interest.

In order to determine that, the County Manager wants to know if any staff person in the Attorney's office has ever communicated with bloggers, various conservative groups or certain media - under any name, on their time, on any subject.

What they've done, in effect, is drag the public and various constituencies into their internal dispute. In doing so, they are trampling on the First Amendment rights of individuals. Now, I'll be the first to admit that attorneys have special rules when it comes to representing their clients. But if you're the Public Information Officer for the Attorney's office, you're going to have conversations with all kinds of people, including bloggers, as part of your job, so this seems like more political posturing than true concern over potential conflicts of interest.

Blue Collar Muse has more details, but lest you think this is a partisan issue, know that the primary offenders are Republican.

1 comment:

Timothy W Higgins said...

This one leads to all kinds of interesting questions, all of which point to the 1st Amendment issues that you mention.

What if someone you know / spoke to was a blogger and you weren't aware of it? What is the liability? What right have they to ask who you are speaking to outside of the office?

... and most importantly

Will this get to the point where people will be asked to supply lists, both of bloggers that they know of and/or simply people that they talk to.

Shades of McCarthyism!

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