The city of South Portland, Maine, prohibits any city employee from running for a seat on the School Board, or any city elective office. The city also bans city employees from circulating petitions for any candidate for any city elective office. On September 10, the Maine Supreme Court ruled that these rules are too restrictive. The 5-1 opinion lets the two plaintiffs run for seats on the School Board. One of the plaintiff-candidates is a part-time librarian; the other one only works four hours per week for the city’s Parks and Recreation Department. Callaghan v City of South Portland, 2013 ME 78.
The city tried to defend its policy by mentioning that the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the Hatch Act, which is a federal law banning federal employees from running for partisan elected office. But the Maine Supreme Court pointed out that the Hatch Act does not interfere with federal employees who want to run for non-partisan office. South Portland, and virtually all Maine cities, have non-partisan city elections.
The Maine Supreme Court said that it is appropriate for some types of city employee to be prevented from running for city office, but said the city must re-write its policy so that it isn’t so drastic.