A Nevada city is taking heat over a recent policy that says city employees could be fired for talking to reporters without permission.
The Henderson, Nev., policy was updated in September, and is attracting attention after it was first obtained and reported by the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Critics warn the policy could pose a threat to free speech in the Las Vegas-area city.
“It’s not just a threat to employees,” Barry Smith, director of the Nevada Press Association, told the Review-Journal. “It’s really a threat to the media as well: ‘Hey, don’t talk to our employees, because if their name shows up in your story, we’re going to take it out on them.’ ”
This policy was updated from its original 2002 version to include guidelines for using social media and other issues, according to Bud Cranor, director of communications and council support.
The last section of the three-page document now says: “Any employee who speaks with the media in their capacity as a City of Henderson employee without authorization from the CCSO (communications office) or who violates this Media Contact and Response Administrative Policy will be subject to discipline up to and including termination, and any other remedial action deemed appropriate by the City.”
While the city is being accused of chilling interactions between city employees and the press, Cranor disputed those claims.
“There is nothing in there that says employees cannot talk to reporters,” Cranor told FoxNews.com.
He explained that his department simply requests that all employees let the Office of Communications know when speaking to a reporter or news outlet.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that this new section is unique to Henderson, and that no other town in Clark County has such a policy.
“If you violate a policy, there is a consequence,” Cranor said, when asked why the section was included at all. He noted the existence of whistleblower laws in Nevada that would still protect employees from speaking out against the government.
Further, no one has been fired or disciplined for speaking to reporters. According to Cranor, there are no plans to change the policy at this time.
FoxNews.com’s Jean Lee contributed to this report.