PHOENIX (CN) – A probation officer claims Arizona and Mohave County fired him illegally, to retaliate for his signing a letter in support of a California ballot measure to decriminalize marijuana. Joe Miller, who lives in Needles, Calif., was one of 32 law enforcement officers and retired officers who signed the letter.
Miller signed the letter, “Law Enforcers Say Control and Tax Cannabis to Protect Public Safety,” in June 2010.
The letter, from the group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, or LEAP, endorsed California’s Proposition 19, a November ballot measure that would have allowed adults to grow and possess small amounts of marijuana. (It lost, 46.5% to 53.5%.)
LEAP released the letter in September, and Miller’s boss, defendant Friend Walker, Mohave County’s chief probation officer, found out in November that Miller had signed it.
Miller was fired in December. “The Notice of Dismissal states, among other things, that Mr. Miller ‘fail[ed]to maintain neutrality in action and appearance when [he] gave permission to the Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) organization to include [his] job title and department “Deputy Probation Officer, Mohave County Probation Department” with [his] endorsement of a California ballot proposition posted on-line [sic] on September 13, 2010,” according to the complaint. (Brackets in complaint.)
Miller, 54, who is represented by the ACLU, said in a statement: “I was terminated not because my service was inadequate, but because my views on drug policy didn’t align with those of Mohave County or my superiors in the Probation Department. As law enforcement agents and public servants, we swear to uphold the Constitution and it’s only fair for our government to respect our First Amendment rights as well.”
Mohave County, the fifth-largest county in the United State (13,470 square miles) is in northwest Arizona, on the California border. Its seat is Kingman.
Miller seeks compensatory and punitive damages for constitutional violations, wrongful firing, tortious interference with contract, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
He is represented by Daniel Bonnett with Martin & Bonnett and Daniel Pochoda with the ACLU of Arizona.