Boston – Incoming Governor Mitt Romney has issued at least one directive to state environmental agencies suspending any contact with media representatives. A second directive, issued shortly after Romney took office, forbids contact with legislators, according to documents released today by the New England chapter of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (New England PEER).The orders also bar publication of any press releases, newsletters and other publications.
One notice sent to Fisheries and Wildlife Division employees reads:
“The Director advises that the Governor’s office will be reviewing all communications with the media, at least on a temporary basis effective immediately…Please advise any media representatives that call you that you are unable to assist them at this time.”
The notice given to all Massachusetts Environmental Police states:
“Until further notice the following two requirements will be strictly followed by all DLE [Division of Law Enforcement] personnel:
Under no circumstances shall any member of the agency have contact with a member of the State Legislature on any matter related to our Division activities unless approved by the Director.
Under no circumstances shall any member of this agency speak with or provide written statements to the media regarding any activity that this agency is engaged in or may be engaged in. All requests from media for comments should be forwarded to the director for action.
Failure to comply with this directive could result in disciplinary action.”
The directives make no exception for communications made by employees on their own time that are protected by First Amendment free speech guarantees. The directives also seem to conflict with Commonwealth constitutional safeguards for all citizens to contact legislative representatives seeking “redress of the wrongs done them” (Article XIX).
“This is an unnecessarily heavy handed opening gesture by Governor Romney,” stated New England PEER Director Kyla Bennett, an attorney formerly with US EPA.”We are waiting for Governor Romney to retract these directives and explicitly acknowledge the constitutional rights of all state workers.”