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Sable Verity loses job for blogging

posted by Cydney Gillis on Monday, October 4 at 3:58pm

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In case you were wondering what happened to Real Change’s new columnist, Sable Verity, who left us abruptly after only one issue, now we can tell you.

With apologies to Verity, an independent reporter and commentator whose real name is Sakara Remmu, this cat’s out of the bag: Verity was fired Sept. 2 by Tabor 100, a nonprofit city contractor, after a city employee identified Verity to Tabor as a blogger—one, more importantly, who has recently criticized Seattle’s mayor with entries on her blog such as “Mayor McGinn: Shit on Your Shoes, Or Blood on Your Hands” regarding public safety in Belltown.

The city employee who identified Verity as a blogger to Ollie Garrett, president of Tabor 100’s executive board, was a well-kept secret until today, when the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission posted a Sept. 30 determination letter in response to a complaint filed on the matter. In it, SEEC Executive Director Wayne Barnett says, in effect, that because no one at the city gained from Verity losing her job, no ethics were violated.

Barnett says Smith and Nancy Locke, director of the city’s purchasing and contract services, only told Garrett in separate phone calls that they were concerned about speaking at Tabor meetings in the presence of a blogger—something Garrett told the SEEC that Verity, a single mother, was terminated for because Verity had not revealed her blogging prior to starting the job on Aug. 11.

“The Deputy Mayor, Ms. Locke, and Ms. Garrett all categorically deny that any threats or ultimatums—either explicit or implicit—were issued,” Barnett writes in his determination letter, which will be discussed at an Oct. 6 meeting of the commission.

Maybe so, but it’s clear that Verity was fired for exercising her Constitutional right to free speech. That may or may not be within the SEEC’s purview to address, but it is no less troubling.

To read the letter, go to the bottom of the SEEC’s Agendas & Minutes page and click on Dismissal of Case No. 10-1-0908-1.

CORRECTION: Verity wrote two columns for Real Change, but did not leave permanently—she put the column on hold. Her column is now scheduled to return in the Oct. 20 issue.


Comments

Sable Verity “abruptly left” or, put another way, took leave from not just Real Change, but all outlets where she wrote or contributed, because she had just experienced a mind-blowing level of retaliation for publicly expressing her opinion. Her ability to provide for her family was literally taken away because of this. This is an EXTREMELY jarring experience for her as she attempts to figure out how to pay her rent and questions whether she can speak freely and provide for her family without further retaliation in Seattle.

Crystal | submitted on 10/05/2010, 6:24pm

You guys seem to be missing the point here.

The complaint clearly states that Tabor was hoping that Ms. Remmu would agree to not disclose any informational proceeds from her job.

After she failed to disclose that she was a public figure, that concern was legitimate. Any employer has the right to ask that their employees not disclose information gained during their employment about the company’s donors, intellectual property, customers or investors.

Companies also have the right to expect their potential employees (and those who recommend them!) not to withhold conflicts (or even perceived) conflicts of interest.)

Had Ms. Remmu responded in a professional manner and agreed that there had to be a high wall between her professional work duties and her political activism, she would still be employed.

Ms. Remmu has disavowed that she is honor bound to journalistic standards, relying instead on the name “social commentator”, which is the reason that this problem existed in the first place.

Any journalist would have said “I’m not a journalist now, I’m working”

davkanist | submitted on 10/05/2010, 10:22pm

It’s tragic when the rights of a “company” trump the rights of an individual.

Perhaps davkanist does not understand that real “journalists” cannot simply turn it off; speaking truth to power is a lifestyle, not a hobby.

Jacob | submitted on 10/07/2010, 8:02am

No one trumped anyone’s right to free speech.  Verity can and did write what she wanted.  That she was held responsible for what she said is a different issue that has nothing to do with a right to free speech.

Aidan Hadley | submitted on 10/07/2010, 6:15pm

Verity apparently wrote about the mayor not her employer. (Her employer works for the city, but it’s not the mayor’s office.) Why can’t she diss the mayor if she has legitimate concerns? If I worked for a firm with which Starbucks was a client, and I was troubled by Starbucks’ business practices, I should be able to diss Starbucks on my own blog, using my own psuedonym, without threat to losing my job.

And, from what I can tell, it doesn’t sound like they asked her to sign an NDA (non-disclosure agreement), which would make things a little more in their favor if she DID disclose any business information.

What REALLY disturbs me most is this: “SEEC Executive Director Wayne Barnett says, in effect, that because no one at the city gained from Verity losing her job, no ethics were violated.” Whaaat? You mean, I can fire someone for being gay, and because I gained NOTHING from them being fired, I’m ethical? Something is missing here.

Jackie | submitted on 10/07/2010, 7:10pm


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