Kendall Hallett: Sunshine Troublemaker of the Week

As we bestow our 13th Sunshine Troublemaker of the Week award, we can’t help but notice that STOTWs are losing their jobs. That’s not a good thing.

Kendall Hallett just lost his job at a parking enforcement officer right here in Madison, Wisconsin. His sin was posting public records on his website.

Sunshine Troublemaker of the Week

The Madison Police Department–Hallett’s boss–questioned whether he was writing up enough parking tickets. Not illogically, he responded by posting a spreadsheet on his website listing month-by-month citation numbers for the city’s 29 parking enforcement officers from January-September 2007. This is a public record, but the Madison Police Department is taking the view that if you work for them, you have to get a special level of permission for posting or using documents that any old random person can obtain and post with complete impunity.

The memo terminating Mr. Hallett accuses him of “having posted a number of documents on the Internet.”

Isthmus, our local arts-entertainment-and-politics weekly, is covering this story.

Isthmus reports that they received an anonymous call from someone who told them that Hallett:

“…is gay. He wears earrings and stuff. We don’t need his kind around here. Write about somebody good.”

In our view, Mr. Hallett is good. He’s the best, and we are proud to confer upon him our coveted and increasingly prestigious STOTW Award.

If anyone wants to anonymously call and tell us that Mr. Hallett is gay and wears earrings, our phone number is 608-255-0688.

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16 responses to “Kendall Hallett: Sunshine Troublemaker of the Week

  1. I don’t usually write in all caps, but…

    THANKS!

    Kendall Hallett

    🙂

  2. I hope Mr. Hallett files a law suit against the City, the Mayor, the Police Chief, and the Captain. He can sue the individuals under 42USC 1983 for violation of his ADA rights and his 1st amendment rights. At the same time he can sue the individuals (or at least the Captain) for libel remarks.

    He can also file a law suit in federal court for violation of the ADA against the employer. The fact taht they made it clear that they had concerns “regarding his stability” is what I would call a “smoking cannon”!

    He should contact the EEOC for an easy “Right to Sue” letter at,

    Reuss Federal Plaza
    310 West Wisconsin Avenue, Suite 800
    Milwaukee, WI 53203-2292
    Phone: 1-800-669-4000
    Fax: 414-297-4133
    TTY: 1-800-669-6820

    In the immortal words of Forrest Gump, “Stupid is as Stupid does” and these characters are the personification of Mr. Gumps phrase…

    Sue them for as much as you can and ask for your job back….

    Good luck!!!!

  3. BRAVO KENDALL HALLETT!

  4. i can’t believe things like this are happening in madison.

  5. Kendall, you are an American hero.

  6. Kendall, I forgot to mention that you only have 300 days from the day of the discriminatory act (the date of the email, unless there was something else that happened before that should’ve given you notice of discrimination) to file a complaint thru the EEOC. You can file the complaint with the EEOC while you are also pursuing remedy thru the union. If I were you, I would hit them from all sides at the same time.

    Keep them busy and hold them accountable.

  7. Thanks, all, for the compliments. I’ve done none of it for anything but standing up for what’s right. I guess that makes this all sweeter.

    I’ve not been of the mind to sue, but if there are obvious grounds for any easy case, I would be willing to discuss it with any pro bono lawyers who would wish to take a look. I will say I am not eager to sue unless there is a clear case with no gaps in credibility. I would need to be convinced of that before I would consider legal action.

    Kendall Hallett

  8. I would suggest you discuss your case with any of the attorneys at Fox and Fox. As competent as they may be, I would not recommend Hayes, VanCamp and Schwartz or Jeff Scott Olson or Victor Arrellano. Pretty much anyone else would be fine.

    Follow this link to see a good list of attorneys in Madison.

    http://www.cityofmadison.com/dcr/documents/rptAttorneyReferralList.pdf

    No attorney worth anything will give you the type of warranty you want. But ultimately, you can ask them to take the case on contingency.

    No case is perfect. Each case has two sides and yours is no different. I don’t know you, but I am sure that your are not “without sin”. A good attorney will either confuse the facts or change them in your favor. You won’t know unless you try.

    Some things you do for fun, some others (as you said) you do because they are right. This one is going to be both…

    I should mention that it does not cost you anything to file a complaint with the EEOC. Lately, they are going mostly after “class action” type cases, but if they are interested they might even take your case themselves. If not, they’ll give a “right to sue” letter, which is what would allow you to file a law suit in federal court.

    Just because you get the letter does not mean that you have to file a law suit. The main thing about filing the complaint is to meet the statutory requirement of 300 days. You can continue working it through the union or whatever, but if you change your mind, at least you will be able to continue thru the court.

    If you do not file the complaint, you will not have the right to file a law suit if you miss the statutory provision on the number of days, even if it was delayed because “you were trying to solve it” thru the union.

    Remember, there are at least 3 issues you need to discuss with the attorneys: Violation of 1 amendment, violation of ADA and libel. As I mentioned before, you can sue both the individuals and the City.

    The good thing about suing the individals is that, if you win, they have to pay you from their personal assets. The City cannot pay for them. That is the best way to teach them a lesson.

    Good Luck.

  9. I understand no Lawyer can guarantee an outcome, but I would simply want to be assured of a strongly credible case. I wouldn’t want to hurt my personal or professional credibility by doing anything frivolous.

    I’m winging it here, but I would guess EEOC would be re. the homophobic remarks. I honestly don’t believe that is representative of the City and the City/Department would not tolerate it if it knew where it was coming from. I have kept my mouth shut because I think they have already handled it very poorly and will continue to. That experience might be something to give them some education without the need for any punishment. My style of ‘gay activism’ is simply to be myself, very openly, but not make a big deal out of it. I don’t think this experience will change that. I’ve found that often people struggle with it, but ultimately they WANT to be fair… they’re just sometimes ignorant. Me too.

    I don’t see any strong 1st amendment case, but I don’t want to talk about this here because of the sensitivity of the topic on both sides.

    ADA? Americans with Disabilities Act? I’d be interested in hearing how that plays into the ‘stability’ remarks. This also segues into the libel topic in that McLay never said I WAS a threat, or WAS unstable. He said employee’s approached him and suggested it. I suspect it was the other way around actually… that he approached employees he knew would ‘play along’. The implication is clear, but the statement of fact is not.

    I do know the City would spend hundreds of thousands on Attorney’s fees to defend itself and its administrators. It would be a LONG battle.

    Finally, I’m not really all that interested in collecting damages from individuals. I would be more interested in ‘pinching’ the institution with the intent of causing positive change, no more, no less. Lawyers fees and actual costs aside, I would likely contribute any punitive damages to charity.

    HRCF comes immediately to mind, and if there are law firms that specilize in Toxic Workplace/Workplace Bullying issues, that would be interesting. The U.K. is far ahead of us on those issues, and I suspect the American ‘work-scape’ (Steve Colbert can do it, why not me?!) is much worse than the U.K. ever was.

    Regards,
    Kendall Hallett

  10. I understand.

    If you have concerns about remarks that anyone might have made towards you during your employment with the city or if you have reason to believe that your “gay activism” or the fact that you may or may not be gay was a factor in your termination, that is a different issue.

    You would have to file a complaint of discrimination because of sexual orientation with the State. Federal law still does not recognize sexual orientation as a protected class, the State of Wisconsin (and many other states) does. You would have to file a separate complaint with the Department of Workforce Development, Equal Rights Division for the Sexual Orientation claim only. Visit their website at http://www.dwd.state.wi.us/er/equal_rights_division/default.htm.

    Going back to the original issue, the first mistake you are already making is that you are too quick to make excuses and apologies for the employer (the City). That, my dear friend, is not your job. They have attorneys and, believe you me, they know how to use them. Your job (and your attorney’s) is to present the best case you can. DON’T MAKE APOLOGIES OR TRY TO EXPLAIN THE REASONING BEHIND THEIR ACTIONS!!!!!

    Credibility? What the heck is that!!!???? Do you really think that the City is going to give a hoot about how much credibility they have? You are going to battle without a rifle if you keep thinking that way. You will have credibility when you overcome. Worry about getting your fact straight, about collecting information that will support your case and about presenting the best damn case you can. When you win and they pay you, that is when you’ll have credibility. It may come to you as a surprise, but right now YOU HAVE NONE!!!! Right now, the City is presenting you as a disgruntled employee with a serious performance problem that caused you to be fired. CREDIBILITY, SCHMELIBILITY!!! You have to get your credibility back by presenting the evidence in court. (You want to know about credibility, file for unemployment. Make sure you appeal when you get denied!!!!)

    I don’t mean to sound callous, but I want you to snap out of Pollyanna dream. Credibility… don’t make me laugh!

    I am sorry, but I am not going to explain here the reasons I believe the ADA, libel and 1st amendment issues are involved. It would take more time that I have right now. Precisely because I knew you would have those questions is that I referred you to an attorney. Pick the one you want, any good one will give a free initial consultation and answer your questions.

    Knowledge is a powerful thing. What do you have to loose anyway? They already fired you! Don’t start a battle that you don’t intent to finish. I am not going to sit here and tell you that it is going to be easy (I know it won’t be). The question is, Are you up to the task?
    So, you may loose… but you may win. When everything is said and done, you will have the satisfaction that you did all you could to protect your rights and to do the right thing. There are no guarantees… All our legal system promises you is that you have the right to bring your concerns to a court of law. The outcome depends on how well you present your case. Talk to an attorney.

  11. Pollyanna?! Sorry if I made you laugh, but that makes me laugh! I’ll just say I’ve heard it before.

    You raise some good points. Unemployment already denied me. I’m in the process of getting the appeal together. But I’ve got a lot to learn in a short time, and I’m not going to jump into anything without all my facts together.

    I am spending a lot of time getting all my information together. Fortunately, or unfortunately as the case may be, I’ve never deleted emails. It’s kind of amazing and daunting to see some of the documents over the past few years.

    I will certainly keep what you’ve written in mind.

    Regards,
    Kendall Hallett

  12. Jump into it! You don’t have anything to lose. You have a great deal to lose if you take no action. File a complaint. See an attorney–it costs nothing for the initial consultation–the attorney can tell you if you have a case or not. Believe me, no attorney will take your case unless they think they can win it. The City of Madison and the Madison Police Department has done everything they can to try to destroy you. You are unemployable, you have been labeled a threat, you have been labeled unstable and you are denied unemployment compensation. What more needs to be done to you to make you realize that they are playing hardball? I would not sit back and think a union is going to take care of everything for you. They usually have relationships they are trying to preserve with the employers too–keep that in mind.

  13. This is all good, but ultimately I have to be the decision maker about what is best for me. My next step is to appeal the unemployment ruling. There has to be a logical progression of events, and I’m not yet at the Attorney seeking stage. For one thing I need to have all my ducks in neat little rows so that I can first make sense of it all. (Makes me sound slow, doesn’t it?! I can do self-deprecating…)

    But for now, I’m waiting for a few options to play out in that ‘logical progression of events.’ The holidays are upon us, and that is slowing things down, and as much as I protest, they won’t speed up for me.

  14. Jeff Faulkner

    “Public records” aren’t “public” until they are properly requested and approved for release by the custodian of records. “Any old random person” cannot obtain and post them with complete impunity unless they follow statutorily-defined processes. Simply being an employee of the police department does not entitle you to remove and post any material you choose.

  15. Aye, Mr. Faulkner, but public records are public records are public records. The fact that I may have violated department policy in releasing them does not mean they weren’t public records. They are and were public records the entire time they existed.

    Are you saying that just because they belonged to the Police Department, they don’t also belong to the public? I say that’s backwards. Yes, the Police can legitimately redact or even deny access to some public records, but they have to have a reason to do so.

    Not one of the records I put out gave up any information that was privileged (except for my own personnel files, which I believe I have the right to give out freely). Do you suppose that’s coincidence, or did I perhaps use some common sense?

    Let me assure you, I believe/believed the records I put up were public, and they have in every case been supplied upon official open records requests.

    So I say every one of them is and always was public record. Why do the Police think they have the right to such secrecy? Do you believe they should, Mr. Faulkner?

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