Don't think of it as "firing," say county commissioners.
Think of it as "de-funding anyone who has opinions we disagree with."
At Board Time for the Clark County commissioners this morning, one of the commissioners slid a piece of paper across the table to county administrator Bill Barron.
"Bill," said commissioner and revenge enthusiast Tom Mielke, "Here's a list of people we need you to take care of."
Barron looked down at the paper, a used napkin from Billygan's Roadhouse with seven names of county employees scrawled in between dabs of ranch dressing.
"I'm guessing," said Barron, "that by 'take care of,' you don't mean that I should see to it that these people have everything they need to do their jobs effectively to serve the public trust."
New commissioner and motion-control enthusiast David Madore interjected, "I think you know what we mean, Bill." He smiled hollowly. "These are people who have been brought to our attention as individuals who have publicly expressed opinions different from ours. Some support the CRC project. Others think water quality is an important issue. Still others, I'm appalled to say, have publicly disclosed the fact that they are not Christians."
"None of those reasons are cause for dismissal, commissioners," said Barron. "In fact, all of those reasons are legally protected. You can't fire someone because you don't like their opinions or beliefs. Especially in the public sector."
"Which is why, Bill," Madore said slowly, "We're not asking you to fire them."
Barron blinked. "Then what are you asking me to do?"
Madore stared at Barron without blinking. "We're telling you that the commissioners have voted to de-fund their positions out of concern for proper use of taxpayer dollars."
"I really had hoped not to have to ask this again so soon," said Barron, "but ... seriously?"
Madore smirked and nodded.
Barron looked helplessly up at the ceiling and asked for someone, anyone, to please jump out and tell him this is all just an elaborate pre-Retirement practical joke.
No one jumped out.
Madore checked to make sure the cameras had a good angle on him, and began another lecture.
"Now," said Madore, "I'm a free speech guy. I love free speech. I love that people get to have opinions. But the thing is, the people who elected me have certain expectations. How can I meet those expectations if we're spending county money on things that don't meet with my strict approval?"
"That's not really how it---" Barron started, then shrugged and gave up. "Fine," he said. "I'm to fire these people because you don't like the opinions they express outside of work, but in order to avoid a lawsuit, I'm to tell them that they're not being fired, they're being... de-funded?"
"Precisely," said Madore. "Who knows? Maybe if they were to come back and tell us they've corrected their opinions, we might one day be able to find funding for their positions again."
"I'm sure that will comfort them," said Barron.