The Blog Backlash Begins

The Virginia Virtucon blog calls for the resignation of Del. Ward Armstrong, D-Henry, the delegate who objected to Will Vehrs’ humor in an online caption-writing contest that made light of economic misfortunes in Armstrong’s home district. Armstrong, it seems, has used inappropriate humor himself, at times.

According to a May 2, 2006 article in the Cavalier Daily about sexual harassment:

However, sexual harassment is not confined to lobbyists and at times has found its way to the House floor. Del. Jeannemarie Devolites, R-Vienna, the majority whip, said she had negative experiences with three delegates when first elected to the House.

In particular, Devolites said Del. Ward Armstrong, D-Henry, publicly embarrassed her on several occasions, including doing an impression of Bill Clinton and comparing her to Monica Lewinsky. Later, Armstrong apologized for his comments on the floor of the House.

“I think they considered it part of my initiation,” Devolites said.

Luckily for Armstrong, Devolites didn’t choose to make a federal case out of the incident, or he might not have remained in the General Assembly long enough to call for Vehrs’ resignation.

Chad Dodson weighs in on the issue here. And Waldo Jaquith here. An Associated Press story appears here. Writer Kristin Gelineau characterizes Vehrs’ captions as “snarky.” Does snarkiness (or is the noun form of the word simply “snark”) warrant a 10-day suspension?

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5 responses to “The Blog Backlash Begins”

  1. Will Vehrs Avatar
    Will Vehrs

    I want to make it clear that I disassociate myself completely from anyone and everyone’s calls for others to resign or be punished or be exposed or whatever else is out there.

    While I respect the right of my fellow bloggers to make these calls and believe they are just as offended by certain officials as those who were offended by me, I cannot and will not join these calls.

    I wish it had not come to this.

  2. Anonymous Avatar

    Well Armstrong made his remarks and his apology in 1998. This was well publicized at the time. Since then he has been reelected by the voters of his district in 1999, 2001,2003 and 2005. This last time MMs. Devolites(now Senator Devolites-Davis) came down and recounted Armstrong’s “transgression”, condemned him for it and called for his defeat–in vain.

    It’s democracy folks–the people have spoken and they just don’t give a damn about what he said. Don’t you think you might get over it? Get a grip.

  3. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Anonymous 10:29, No, I’m not ready to “get over it.” I may get over it eventually, but not until I have more information. This incident is bigger than Will Vehrs. It’s about the power of a member of the General Assembly to punish a state employee in a fit of pique. If Will had violated written or even unwritten state policy regarding the time he spent blogging, I would have had little sympathy for him. But if he didn’t violate any guidelines — if new justifications are being invented and being applied after the fact –his punishment is not right.

    It’s not unreasonable for the state to limit the time its employees spend doing personal stuff on the Internet. But they can’t suddenly make up a rule and enforce it retroactively.

    Normally, I think state employees have too many protections. Departmental managers should enjoy more leeway in hiring, firing and disciplining employees for performance. But rules are rules and they should be applied consistently.

  4. Riley, Not O'Reilly Avatar
    Riley, Not O’Reilly

    Anon. 10:29, how many companies and jobs did NOT come to Henry County in the time since Armstrong made those comments on account of him presenting a poor image of his district? Armstrong is as much a disgrace of an elected official as he is ineffective.

    The man is economic development kryptonite.

  5. Anonymous Avatar

    I admire Will for being unwilling to associate himself with his many defenders.

    The state has had a policy (it’s a misdemeanor) prohibiting state employees from using the taxpayer’s property for personal business for as long as I’ve been in state government. I admit that the policy has been observed in the breach with respect to phones and computers more often than not. But, the head of the department of the visually handicapped was relieved of his job for making personal long distance calls on his state phone back during the Baliles administration (or maybe Wilder’s). And, though many departments, including the AG’s office, have long allowed state employees to reimburse the state for long distance calls made on state phones, there isn’t really any basis in state law for any policy other than a strict prohibition on private use of state phones and computers.

    So, if, as I recall, a number of Will’s posts as a blogger (in this instance and earlier) were time stamped during normal working hours, one might reasonably ask:
    1) was he using a state computer to blog, or
    2) was he using a personal computer while he was on the taxpayer’s nickel?

    In either case, shouldn’t all you fiscal conservatives care how a state employee is spending his time… regardless of whether you approve of his sense of humor?

    And, on another point, where were all of you folks in the blogoshere who are “outraged” in retrospect by Ward’s juvenile attempts at humor when NLS was running his degrading “beauty contests”?

    And, Riley… are you seriously suggesting that any company would be deterred from locating in a City/county/locality because a good ole boy told a stupid,sexist (or racist) joke? If so, where should we begin to count the number of Virginia localities that are strewn with “economic development kryptonite?”

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