Michelle emailed us this statement [yesterday] morning;Fascinating! Certainly Lyons doesn't deserve to face retaliation over responding to legislators cc'd on an email from a blogger requesting information, if that's really the proximate cause. Whoever has her (former) job must play a dicey balancing game between a variety of competing, powerful interests, and I completely understand why - when they've already been told of the issue by Stuart - she'd see fit to let legislators see sensitive information from her first before it appeared on The Back Gate. Hell, that's PR 101.
"When I received the email from Duane [Stuart, a Back Gate blogger] on Friday and when I responded to him and everyone who he had originally copied on the message [ed. note: including state Sen. John Whitmire's office], it set in motion a chain of events. Within a couple of hours, my email account was 'frozen' and I was told I was under investigation. Before I was charged with failing to obey an order, I was told that I should not have responded to Duane because he is considered media. At this point, I would note that some time ago, I was tracking down an answer to a question Duane had asked me and I went to Mr. [TDCJ Deputy Executive Director Bryan] Collier. He asked why I was responding to Duane since "he's not media." It's interesting to me that he wasn't 'media' several months ago, but now he is? At the time, I said that while Duane may not meet the definition of media in TDCJ's own media policy, that he is a TDCJ employee and member of the public and that I respond to as many inquiries I can from the public in addition to those I receive from the media. That's exactly what I did on Friday. I view it as responding to a message from a colleague about possible federal labor law and privacy violations and including on it my union representative and two state lawmakers. Why is that an issue?"
Michelle went on to say;
"I know that what I've gone through these last six months is similar to what so many other TDCJ employees have had to endure during their own tenures with the agency. I just really didn't understand until it happened to me. I'll never know exactly what initiated the discriminatory measures they took against me with my demotion and pay cut, but I can pinpoint that the retaliation began as soon as I questioned the way TDCJ requires employees to track their time and how they appear to be circumventing federal labor laws through some policies (although an agency policy obviously shouldn't trump federal law). Within two weeks, Mr. Collier told me 'I should have just fired you,' and it only escalated from there."
Grits finds the institutional attitude toward blogs described in these excerpts quite telling, if regrettable, confirming a dismissive attitude I've sensed in the past. Bryan Collier doesn't consider blogs "media" so Lyons must couch her actions as "responding to a message from a colleague about possible federal labor law and privacy violations and including on it my union representative and two state lawmakers." IMO, though, she needn't contort in such a manner to justify what she did. The definition of "media" has changed in the last decade and The Back Gate surely qualifies. After all, they broke this story.
See more detail and Stuart's commentary at The Back Gate.