The Civil Ombudsman believes that the municipality of Tjeldsund should apologize for the repeated violation of Marita Quanli’s freedom of expression.
In 2022, the author posted a Halloween stunt on his Facebook page. The mayor and councilors didn’t think it was funny.
Now Civil Ombudsman Trams concluded that the municipality’s handling of the employee’s expression on social media violated his freedom of expression.
– Marita Ramstad Quanli (45) tells VG that there is no doubt that the report was completely inside.
Educational news First referred to the Ombudsman’s criticism. In November last year, V.G.
On Halloween, Ann Christine Olswick dressed up as a councilwoman and walked around with a suitcase emblazoned with the words “Death in the Districts.”
Olsvik was bearded and wore a shirt, suit jacket, tie and glasses. Her friend Marita Guanli posted her picture with the text:
“The scariest thing you can get on your doorstep. Councilor Selvaste. With the message “Death in the Districts”. Best outfit of the day.”
– It’s just a joke, Olsvik told VG.
– intended as a jab
But the background is serious — a plan to close two schools and a housing and service center where Olswick was a nurse to save money.
– A village without a school loses its livelihood, says Guanli.
A mother of three children, she has been fighting to keep the school in Manakhat at home since 2011. She is a teacher in the neighboring village of Kroffjord.
– This stunt and post was a political satire, a jab at the top management of the municipality who once again proposed to close our village school.
Three days after Halloween, Guanli’s Facebook post was processed by the group. The case was filed under the heading “Harassment of Councillors”.
– Mayor Helen Berg Nilsson told VG that as an employee of the municipality, you should think about what you write and share about your employer.
She said emphatically that there was no question of giving the mask.
He reacted with fear
Quanli deleted the Facebook post after the board meeting:
– I was scared when I heard that the case might have consequences for me. Never in my wildest dreams could I have expected such a reaction.
In Tjeldsund’s guidelines for using social media, it says: “Remember that you are an ambassador for the municipality in your spare time.”
A legal assessment for the municipality determined that an employer cannot restrict the freedom of expression of employees by referring to their own internal regulations.
Nevertheless, the municipal administration invited Guanli to a meeting in February this year, saying that the report was sufficient but at the same time “ethical questionable”.
With the support of the Education Association, Marita Ramstad Quanli filed a complaint with the Civil Ombudsman to improve the environment for expression in the marginalized municipality.
– I have experienced a culture of fear where I felt the purpose was to intimidate me into silence. I don’t want others to get to that point.
The Civil Ombudsman concludes that Tjeldsund Municipality repeatedly violated his freedom of expression and acted inappropriately as an employer.
– A win
– Guanli says the report is a victory for freedom of expression.
He believes there is a misunderstood duty of loyalty among civil servants.
– This was an expression of my free time on my personal Facebook account, which was not working as my teacher in the municipality.
He believes many public servants don’t know how powerful freedom of expression is.
– I have the right to express myself as a resident of the municipality.
The Civil Ombudsman clarifies that the statements must be linked to the employee’s working conditions in order to fall under the duty of loyalty.
Also, the employer must demonstrate that the employee’s speech actually harms or may harm the company’s interests.
– The ombudsman writes that statements that are not subject to a legal obligation of confidentiality and mainly express employees’ own views are generally an opportunity to come forward.
The report emphasizes that public servants have wide latitude in form and content to express their views publicly.
– This also applies to statements that the employer deems to be unpleasant, unfortunate or undesirable, writes the Civil Ombudsman.
The civil ombudsman believes the municipality should apologize for its handling.
– An expression criticizing the budget cut is apparently at the heart of being protected by freedom of expression, even if that expression takes place in a satirical form linked to the municipality’s top executive manager, writes the Ombudsman.
Neither the former mayor nor councilors would comment on the ombudsman’s decision Harstad Newspaper, which also discussed the case. She also did not want to comment on Viji.
On Friday, the new mayor of Djeldsund invited Quanli.
– Mayor Robin Ridderseth tells VG that he regrets the municipality’s attempt to limit his freedom of expression.
– Pure humor
He sat in the mayor’s chair when he got the case in his lap.
The municipality will consider the civil ombudsman’s report and assess whether their internal rules restrict employees’ right to self-disclosure.
On Halloween this year, Marita Quanli dressed up as “Night Robin Hood” and hinted at the mayor to take from the rich and give to the poor.
– This is pure comedy, perhaps with a more positive connotation. But even if the sting is negative, we have to put up with it, says Ridderseth.
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