The executive director of the Jacksonville Airport Authority issued a directive this week forbidding authority employees from speaking with members of the authority board or the media without his approval.
John Clark wrote in a Wednesday memorandum that such behavior “will be deemed inappropriate action and is grounds for termination.” Yesterday, Clark said the directive was prompted by an authority worker phoning a board member to complain about a new volunteer program at Jacksonville International Airport in which employees monitor curbside parking at the terminal.
The new restrictive measure is necessary because workers should take grievances to their supervisors instead of board members, who are responsible for making policy decisions, not dealing with individual employee issues, Clark said.
“We can’t have an organization where workers of the organization can freely go to board members or the media with grievances about the organization,” he said.
Such policies often are established to give an organization control over information by centralizing communication, said Sandra Chance, director of the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information at the University of Florida. The measures aren’t unusual, but they can be troubling when a public body is involved, she said.
“Anytime a government entity tries to restrict speech, it implicates the First Amendment rights of the speakers,” Chance said. “If I were a member of the Airport Authority [board], I’d be asking, ‘Why?'”