OKLAHOMA CITY (KOKH) — An attorney is saying the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) committed a First Amendment violation.
This comes after Ryan Walters' chief advisor sent a threatening email to OSDE staffers, calling it a "final warning" to employees who disagree with Walters' beliefs.
Employment attorney Mark Hammons says this "absolutely" qualifies as grounds for a lawsuit.
"One of those [OSDE] employees comes to me, I've got the smoking gun about motivation on that," Hammons said. "That is such a stupid thing."
In an email circulating today, Walters' Chief Advisor Matt Langston says any OSDE employee who leaks information will be fired immediately.
"Perhaps the State Department of Education, this is sad if it's true, doesn't understand that there's a First Amendment to the Constitution guaranteeing the freedom of speech," Hammons said.
Hammons says even if the Walters administration doesn't understand this concept, the OSDE is a public office.
"Not a private office. What you do is supposed to be known to the public, and you are supposed to be accountable to the public."
The Attorney General's Office, declined to comment. But, they shared this piece of information with Fox 25:
Whistleblowers have protections under state law to confidentially report claims of agency or employee mismanagement and criminal misuse of state funds or property.
"This is clearly employee mismanagement," Hammons said. "That's the state whistleblower statute. They do have the right to do that. I don't want to minimize however that there's a First Amendment protection for that under the Civil Rights statute in federal law."
Oklahoma Senator Mary Boren says the national whistleblower defense fund is ready to help OSDE employees who are harassed or threatened.
"It's clear they're trying to create a very toxic and hostile environment for those who are just trying to do their job and is trying to follow the law," Sen. Boren said.
She says she's happy to help OSDE workers find a lawyer.
"I just wanted people to know that there is a confidential way to reach out, and get the legal protection you need."
Matt Langston calls the email a "baller move by Ryan Walters."
"Ryan Walters in his effort to be crazy conservative has opened the state up to lawsuits," Hammons said.
Hammons says anyone who leaked this morning's email, and got fired for it, has every reason to pursue a lawsuit.
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