There is a disturbing case out of Virginia Beach where city employee Elizabeth Mann, 48, was fired and then arrested for telling Wendy Swallow, a supervisor, that she is the type of boss who pushes people to violence. She was referencing the recent shooting spree of DeWayne Craddock, 40, an engineer with the city’s Public Utilities division, that killed 12 people and wounded several others. It was a uniquely stupid thing to say but Mann’s arrest raises serious constitutional concerns.
In a June staff meeting, employees were gathered to discuss the May 31st shooting spree. Mann raised objections to the supervisor as a worker in the Human Resources Department. According to The Virginian-Pilot, she stated “I’m going to be honest with you, I don’t detect any sincerity from you at all, Wendy. You are exactly the same type of supervisor that probably pushed this guy to do that.” She was asked by Swallow to leave the meeting and she did so.
She was then fired and three days later arrested for disturbing the peace. The police report says that “Wendy Swallow reported to me that Elizabeth Mann threatened her during a meeting at work,. Ms. Swallow states that she is in fear for her safety. The threat stated your (sic) the kind of supervisor that would cause somebody to shoot people.”
I do not see how these comments alone would support a charge. This was a meeting about the shooting and Mann was saying that the supervisor’s style was causing the same type of anger. Again, it was a stupid and alarming statement. However, the view of workers was solicited and she gave hers. There are first amendment concerns raised by the use of criminal charges in such a case.
Mann now faced up to a year in jail.
What do you think?