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Eric Wise

Eric Wise is a stay-at-home dad with three children, ages 11, 9 and 3. He was formerly a reporter for the now-defunct Hershey Chronicle newspaper, and he has 10 years of experience in public relations with four different statewide associations. His home improvement column, "Around the House," appeared in daily and weekly newspapers around Pennsylvania from 2007 to 2009. He is a graduate of Hershey Senior High School and Elizabethtown College. He enjoys reading, playing guitar and photography. 

Your employer may be concerned about what you do off duty

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Gilberton Police Chief Mark Kessler has drawn plenty of attention in Pennsylvania and elsewhere with his videos posted to YouTube. In the videos, Kessler rants about Second Amendment rights, fires a few weapons and voices an obscenity-laced attack against Secretary of State John Kerry and other "liberals."

This is the same Kessler who was wounded when his gun discharged during a bar scuffle in 2011. Oops. So much for reasonable arguments and responsible gun ownership. 

Mary Lou Hannon, mayor of Gilberton, made a statement to the New York Daily News that Kessler will not be disciplined because he did not break any laws and he recorded and posted the videos on his own time. 

Some things employees engage in during their off time may displease their employers: chewing tobacco, visiting seedy establishments or being an Atlanta Braves fan. Regardless of what an employer or supervisor thinks about these habits, they are simply the employee's own business.

Posting obscenity-filled, hateful videos to YouTube is quite different. When you work in a position that deals directly with the public, your off-duty actions reflect on your official role. This effect is intensified if you are employed in a position of public trust. Kessler could be dismissed for his actions without any problems. 

The government does not have a right to restrict someone from expressing his opinions, however, as an employer, it may choose to take action following a person's public statements. Hate speech and obscenity are not protected forms of speech. When a person demonstrates a lack of judgment and responsibility with public statements like Kessler's postings on YouTube, any employer, especially one involving public trust, has a responsibility to remove him.

Kessler has attracted enough attention that he has already damaged the reputation of Gilberton. Unfortunately, Kessler has also tainted the North Schuylkill School District, where he also serves as a school director. Damage to an organization's reputation is the clearest reason a person may be removed for what is described as lawful behavior during one's own personal time. 

Kessler's views about the Bill of Rights and gun rights are not an issue that's a problem with his actions; it's his hate-filled speech. His performance undermines the public trust that is awarded to law enforcement. Worse yet, when Kessler and people like Ted Nugent engage in such shrill and basically unhinged performances, they detract from the valid arguments that favor Second Amendment rights. 

 

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