- Associated Press - Friday, July 17, 2015

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - A New Hampshire town administrator who asked an employee to remove a Confederate battle flag from his personal vehicle while it’s on town property said Friday the town of Canaan will drop its policy barring political statements by workers when they are on the clock.

Canaan administrator Mike Samson said Friday that the real victim of the “firestorm” is transfer station manager J.R. Defosse. Samson said Defosse apologized to him Friday for all the disruption the flag issue caused and said even if the policy changes, he won’t display the flag.

Samson on Monday asked Defosse to stop displaying a Confederate flag on his truck during work hours, after he received a complaint from someone who used the dump last weekend. Defosse’s truck is parked there.

“He’s very upset,” Samson said. “He feels like he’s caused harm for the town. He’s not going to put the flag up.”

Defosse told the Valley News that he was protesting South Carolina’s decision to remove the flag from its statehouse following the shooting of nine people in Charleston.

Numerous calls attempting to reach Defosse at the transfer station during working hours Friday went unanswered.

Samson, a lawyer, said he wasn’t persuaded by free speech concerns raised by the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union. What swayed him, he said, was a state law protecting political speech by state and municipal employees.

Defosse, who’s worked for the town for two years, told Samson he thought the policy applied only to town politics, not politics in general.

The town’s current personnel policy prohibits employees from making statements or arguments of a political nature on town property during work hours. He said he’s consulted the selectmen and said they agreed and expect to drop the policy at their next meeting on Tuesday.

Samson said the “firestorm” came after someone called the Valley News and said town officials threatened to fire Defosse if he didn’t remove the flag.

“Nothing even vaguely reached that point,” Samson said Friday. “Someone chose to make this into a prominent political statement.”


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