Mike Sienda already felt aggrieved when his boss at the National Ground Intelligence Center’s Rivanna Station told him in early September to not show up on grounds with his giant Trump-Pence signs on the side of his box truck.
When he was told he couldn’t park on the federal property with a smaller Trump 2016: Make America Great Again sign in the back window of his Jeep, Sienda contacted the Rutherford Institute, a local civil rights org. And within two days of its attorneys writing NGIC October 12, he was told, uh, never mind, the smaller sign is just fine.
“I think they realized it’s protected speech,” says Sienda.
The spy center had cited the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from engaging in on-the-job campaigning, when it first banned Sienda’s box truck. However, the Rutherford Institute argues that the act says workers can exercise their rights “unless expressly prohibited by law,” and the regs allow bumper stickers on personal vehicles, and do not “expressly prohibit” signs over a certain size.
Sienda still hasn’t gotten the okay to bring back the bigger signs on his truck, which the Rivanna Station called a “campaign vehicle.”
“We’re going to ask them to clarify that,” says Rutherford founder John Whitehead. “If the government uses these terms, they have to define them.”
NGIC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Sienda is happy with his partial victory. “I’m glad to be able to participate in the political process and not worry about doing anything wrong,” he says.