Guerrilla Statesmanship: Constitutionalizing an Ethic of Dissent

Date01 January 2015
Published date01 January 2015
Chad B. Newswander is assistant
professor in the Department of Political
Science at the University of South Dakota.
His research focuses on administrative
statesmanship, administrative law, admin-
istrative ethics, power and politics, and
constitutional governance.
126 Public Administration Review • January | February 2015
Public Administration Review,
Vol. 75, Iss. 1, pp. 126–134. © 2014 by
The American Society for Public Administration.
DOI: 10.1111/puar.12293.
action resulted in another round of reprisal—his
weekly days of‌f were moved to Friday and Saturday
instead of Saturday and Sunday.
Stemming from these retaliatory responses, Dill
charged that his First Amendment rights had been
violated.  e free speech clause granted him both
power to subvert his superiors’ wishes and protection
from the ensuing retaliation.  e Tenth Circuit Court
of Appeals accepted Dill’s claim, arguing that his state-
ments amounted to a matter of public concern. His
actions in expressing these sentiments were not found
to impede the ability of the district attorney’s of‌f‌i ce
or the police department to properly function, and
no managerial harm was substantiated. As a result,
Dill’s opposition to the direct recommendations of his
bosses was vindicated.
is type of dissent, as described by Rosemary
O’Leary, involves “the actions taken by career public
servants who work against the wishes—either implic-
itly or explicitly communicated—of their superiors”
(2014, xi). Even though guerrilla government is
Abstract: According to judicial precedents, administrators informed by their expertise can speak on issues of public
concern under First Amendment protections. In one sense, they could dissent by working against their employers in
an attempt to direct issues of public concern through an educational function.  e power to act like a statesman in
raising such issues allows administrators to lead from behind and in front, as long as certain judicial thresholds are
met. However, the U.S. Supreme Court recently moved to tighten the scope of such activity.  is article assesses how
an ethic of dissent has been translated into a constitutional perspective that at f‌i rst was moderately constrained and
later became very restricted. While the move to limit an ethic of dissent provides necessary constraints, it also may have
weakened administrators’ ability to perform necessary statesmanship acts rooted in guerrilla government to achieve the
common good.
Practitioner Points
Employees must accept that their initial title or role is that of a citizen.
As citizens, administrators have the power to speak out, occasionally even following an ethic of dissent in
order to resist and reveal employer mandates.
Because the Supreme Court has granted employees with First Amendment protections, civil servants must
be aware of the nuances and protections granted to them.
e ability to speak out allows administrators to have the opportunity to elevate their vision and act like a
guerrilla statesman in educating the public about the common good.
Guerrilla Statesmanship: Constitutionalizing
an Ethic of Dissent
Chad B. Newswander
University of South Dakota
Jimmy Ray Slaughter was the prime suspect in a
double homicide, accused of killing his daughter
and her mother in their Oklahoma home.
Witnesses conf‌i rmed that Slaughter was present
near the residence during the time of the murders,
which was further corroborated by the autopsy. Even
with this evidence, Detective Dennis Dill of the
Edmond Police Department had an alternative theory
of the crime. He rejected the evidence that pointed
to Slaughter and raised his theory about the crime to
his superiors, who explicitly told him “not to pursue
it further because it might ‘muddy the water’” (Dill v.
City of Edmond Oklahoma, 155 F. 3d 1193, 1200
[10th Cir. 1998]). Dill, however, did not comply with
this command.
His f‌i rst act of insubordination was his refusal to be
cajoled into writing a police report that contained
what he perceived to be false information.  is failure
to comply resulted in his demotion to patrol of‌f‌i cer.
His next act of def‌i ance was to write a letter to the
chief of police regarding “exculpatory evidence” that
the district attorney’s of‌f‌i ce needed to possess.  is

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