Government & Confidentiality Agreements; Oil & Water

A local elected official sent me this article that talks about the pit falls of government employees and confidentiality agreements;

It was recently revealed that many of Donald Trump’s top advisers were asked to sign nondisclosure agreements (NDAs), forcing them to keep quiet about what happens in the White House — even after his presidency ends. Ruth Marcus, deputy editorial editor of The Washington Post labeled these agreements a presidential first and “not just oppressive, but constitutionally repugnant.” Government ethics experts say they are legally questionable.

But don’t think this just goes on in the WH;

This behind-closed-doors approach to resolving conflict in government troubles many.

“If public money is spent, it should be public information,” says Montana state Sen. Fred Thomas, one of the legislators who asked the auditor to look into confidential settlements.

And not just confidential settlements in local government;

In 2016, the issue shook the Alabama governor’s mansion, where Robert Bentley — who resigned in 2017 after news of his alleged affair with a campaign aide — had 87 members of his staff sign nondisclosure agreements two years prior.

How about municipal government?

Some states and cities already limit secret agreements.

San Francisco, for instance, prohibits the city from entering into confidential settlements. And in Iowa, a 2014 executive order, signed by then-Gov. Terry Branstad, bans agencies from adding confidentiality requirements to employee settlements and requires personnel settlements to be reviewed by the attorney general’s office. Branstad’s order followed news that six employees, who had filed grievances about their dismissals, had been paid more than a quarter of a million dollars in confidential settlements.

And what to the legal scholars think?

Legal scholars express doubt about whether confidential settlements and broad nondisclosure agreements in the public sector are enforceable.

“Legally, it’s very problematic to do these in the public sector. It runs afoul of public-sector employment law or sunshine laws,” says Alexander Colvin, a professor of conflict resolution at Cornell University and an expert in labor law.

The issue is particularly problematic for potential whistleblowers.

At the federal level, a whistleblower’s ability to report wrongdoing is strongly protected, but state laws tend to be weaker, vary dramatically and may not be known to employees, says Tom Devine, legal director of the Government Accountability Project, an organization dedicated to protecting whistleblowers.

He worries that any kind of agreement that curtails public employees’ free speech could deter them from flagging problems.

“There are administrative and legal remedies that would allow employees to break nondisclosure agreements or speak out or blow the whistle despite a confidential settlement,” he says. “But the mere existence of the agreement is highly chilling.”

And our local media said really nothing when Council Candidate Janet Brekke came out on Monday about the confidentiality agreement with city employees. Go figure. They have more important things to do like chase down white trash skanks who steal pizza place buffet cards.


#1 "Very Stable Genius" on 04.05.18 at 2:37 pm

I have never understood how anything that limits your rights with an employer – public or private – is enforceable. If coercion, due to the fear of losing your job if you do not sign off on something that your employer requests, is not an example of coercion, then why should coercion to be taken potentially serious ever as an illegal act?….Because any illegal act attached to a contract, or its making, is suppose to make a contract unenforceable, right?

Plus, public employees are protected by the First amendment at their work place in ways that private employees are not. Now, one can sign off on those rights, absent getting into a “coercion” debate that is, but when that happens the big loser is not the employer, rather the loser or losers are transparency and the citizens which are suppose to be served by that government employee and their affiliated governmental institution.

#2 The D@ily Spin on 04.05.18 at 5:33 pm

Nondisclosure agreements makes Trump and Huether guilty. City employees who are subpoenaed into court must testify honestly. If there’s irregularity, it’s their duty as public representatives to report it. Trump has nondisclosure confused with prenup. What’s Huether’s excuse?