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Capitol officer appeals firing over posting

CHARLESTON (AP) — A Capitol police officer is appealing his firing over a post he made on Facebook about a protest over the state’s response to a January chemical spill in the Elk River.

The Public Employees Grievance Board has scheduled a grievance hearing for Douglas Day on June 10.

Day was fired on Feb. 6. Three days earlier, he had written in a Facebook post, “If there was any time I despised wearing a police uniform, it was yesterday at the Capitol during the water rally.”

“A girl I know who frequents the Capitol for environmental concerns looked at me and wanted me to participate with her in the event. I told her I have to remain unbiased while on duty at these events,” Davis wrote. “She responded by saying, ‘You’re a person, aren’t you?’ That comment went straight through my heart!”

Two other Capitol police officers criticized the post in internal statements sent to Kevin J. Foreman, deputy director of the Division of Protective Services, the newspaper said, citing documents provided to Day by the agency and the Attorney General’s Office.

“If they believed there was some sort of a violation I made, then why wasn’t it addressed? They never brought me in and never said anything to me,” Day told the newspaper said. “In 2½ years working there, I had no disciplinary action taken against me at any time. Nothing was ever written up and I received no reprimands.”

Lawrence Messina, spokesman for the state Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety, said he had not heard about the documents Day received.

“We should let the grievance process take its course,” Messina told the newspaper.

Gordon Simmons, a field organizer for United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers Local 170, filed the grievance on Day’s behalf and requested the documents.

“Other state workers also have Facebook pages. There is no violation of policy in what Doug did. And he was very careful not to name who he was talking about,” Simmons told the newspaper. “Can they take away his right to free speech?”

Day received a letter from Foreman on the day that he was fired stating that his job was an at-will position and he could be released from employment without cause.

“‘At will’ in public service doesn’t mean that if I don’t like the way you cut your hair, or if I don’t like the toothpaste you use, you are gone, you are out of here,” Simmons said.

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