No political advertisements proposed in public work

John Whittaker

March 10, 2021

Originally published in Dunkirk Observer on March 10, 2021.

Public employees may have to be more careful about political advertisements in the future.


State Sen. Anna Kaplan, D-Carle Place, has introduced legislation in the state Senate (S.4539) that would amend several sections of state law to prohibit municipal officers or employees from displaying political advertisements. Companion legislation has been introduced in the state Assembly (A.5458) by Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages, D-Valley Stream.

Included in the legislation as types of political advertisements to be banned include posters, signs, flags, banners, pictures, stickers, patches, bumper stickers, clothing or any other accessories advertising or promoting a political candidate. Display of political advertisements would be banned from any public building, vehicle, flagpole, monument, sign or permanent structure.

“This legislation seeks to address the possible issue of a municipal employee from putting on display for the public to see political advertisements of their favored candidates,” Kaplan and Solages wrote in their legislative justification. “It is improper for political advertisements for any political candidate to be displayed on or in any municipal building or any other area defined within this bill. This legislation seeks to remove the impropriety of political advertisements being on display that can lead to the public to believe that particular municipal government is backing a candidate.”

Federal employees are bound by the Hatch Act, which limits federal workers from engaging in certain political activities in their official capacity as public servants. Under the Hatch Act, civil servants generally can’t express support or opposition for a political party or candidate if they are on duty or at the workplace. Images of a candidate, campaign slogans or political party symbols are all off limits.

Last year, the federal Office of Special Counsel held it was a Hatch Act violation for a federal employee to wear a campaign t-shirt while on a Zoom call that was part of the employee’s government job.