IT’S A GOOD QUESTION
Should Steven Jackson be involved in politics as an employee of David Raines?
An even better one is whether Commissioner Steven Jackson should even be on the Caddo Commission while an employee of the David Raines Community Health Center (DRCHC).
The Hatch Act of 1939, officially titled “An Act to Prevent Political Activities,” is a United States federal law that prohibits federal employees from specific forms of political activity. A 1940 amendment extended the act to include certain employees of state and local governments whose positions are primarily paid for by federal dollars.
The Hatch Act prevents a federal employee from being a candidate for public office in a partisan election and from holding a partisan elected position. The Act’s prohibitions include campaign speeches, collecting contributions in political fund-raising events, and even from campaigning against a candidate in a partisan election.
The DRCHC website indicates that it is a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) that provides health care to all regardless of race, national origin, insurance status or income. The website also indicates that it is a “deemed Public Health Service employee” under federal law.
Seemingly, the DRCHC website confirms that Jackson is considered to be a federal employee. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has an online memo that the health-care providers like DRCHC are deemed to be federal employees with coverage under the Federal Tort Claims Act.
Steven Jackson became the community development coordinator for DRCH in 2015. He successfully ran for the Caddo Commission that year and was sworn into office in January 2016. He announced his candidacy for mayor in July of this year.
Public records requests to DRCHC asking for funding sources along with job information on Jackson were stonewalled by DRCHC. DRCHC counsel has subsequently advised DRCHC is not a “public body” subject to the Louisiana Public Records Law. Counsel also stated that DRCHC is a non-profit that provides health services pursuant to the Public Health Services Act.
By letter dated June 25, 2018, Jackson’s private attorney requested that no further contact be made to him or his employer regarding his employment.
There are many questions that need to be answered. The first is, is Jackson considered to be a “federal employee” and, thus, subject to the Hatch Act? Should he be barred from serving as a Caddo Parish Commissioner? Is he prohibited from campaigning for mayor while employed by DRCHC?
Moreover, if Jackson is not subject to the Hatch Act, other questions should be addressed. Should Jackson be paid by DRCHC while attending commission meetings and conducting commission work? Should he be paid while conducting political activities related to his mayoral campaign during the business day? And lastly, why is the DRCHC refusing to provide any information?
DRCHC is federally funded. Most people believe that an employee should not be paid with tax dollars while participating in political activities, including activities related to an elected position that is also funded with tax dollars.
Jackson’s campaign push card touts that he “enacted stronger ethics and transparency on the Caddo Commission.” Surely, he should believe in transparency as it pertains to his eligibility to serve on the commizssion, much less run for Shreveport mayor.
John E. Settle Jr. has been a resident of Shreveport since January 1977. His articles appear regularly in local publications. He can be reached at 742-5513 or e-mail to: John@jesettle.com.