We take the First Amendment pretty damn seriously around here. Hell, it’s how we do our jobs. For a refresher, here’s the text as it’s written out in the Constitution in full:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Nowhere in there does it mention letting people who say unhinged things on social media keep their jobs, does it?

Well, that’s where it seems former Greensboro Fire Department Captain Dustin Jones is a bit confused.

As we’ve reported already, Jones was fired from the Greensboro Fire Department in mid May after posting several anti-trans, anti-LGBTQ+ and racist things on his personal Facebook. When TCB reached out to Jones for comment for the story, he stated that he was always “off-duty” when he made the aforementioned posts and that his dismissal was an infringement on his First Amendment rights.

In a letter, City Manager Taiwo Jaiyeoba upheld the department’s decision to let Jones go after finding a pattern of behavior in which Jones repeatedly disregarded the GFD’s social media policy. After submitting a public records request, TCB got a hold of the department’s policy. Here are some of the most pertinent parts.

Under the section that discusses “unofficial” websites and weblogs — aka, personal social media posts — the department is clear in its expectations of its employees who are, may we remind you, public servants.

All posts should “[u]phold the department’s value of respect for the individual and avoid making defamatory or disrespectful statements about employees, citizens, partners, vendors or other agencies.”

Well, when Jones called Sheriff Danny Rogers a “clown” and a “joke,” that violated the policy. When he attacked the trans community and posted interior pictures of a private citizen’s home, that violated policy.

The cherry on top is the part of the policy that seems to have anticipated Jones’ exact argument.

“As public employees, department personnel are cautioned that their speech either on or off duty, and in the course of their official duties that has a nexus to the employee’s professional duties and responsibilities may not necessarily be protected speech under the First Amendment.”

Boom! It’s like they knew Jones was gonna use this argument. Additionally, the policy warns that “[d]epartment employees should assume that their speech and related activity on social media sites will reflect upon their position within the department.”

But wait! There’s more! 

Department employees are also prohibited from “[s]peech containing obscene or sexually explicit language, images, or acts and statements or other forms of speech that ridicule, malign, disparage, or otherwise express bias against any race, any religion or any protected class of individuals.”

So, while Jones continues to rack up support amongst local conservatives, positioning himself as a martyr, raising thousands of dollars along the way, he should know that his argument that his “free speech” was infringed upon, holds no water. Oh, and good luck suing people over that termination letter. It’s called public record.

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