Professor claims college tried to silence union dues discussion

John Suayan, Galveston Bureau Jul. 11, 2011, 6:15am

GALVESTON � A government professor at a local community college alleges the school and its president violated his First Amendment rights at a meeting last year, recent court documents say.

Dr. David Michael Smith argues that College of the Mainland and president Michael Elam reprimanded him for addressing dues deductions for the college's union members before the board of trustees on June 17, 2010.

His suit was filed June 23 in the Galveston Division of the Southern District of Texas.

The original petition shows Smith, who heads the union, contested Elam's statements that "he had met with the union at their request and that 'we ended up with the discussion of working towards direct deposits.'"

The suit states two board members indicated that the plaintiff was out of order.

Smith and Elam continued to exchange words until the board scolded the complainant again, the suit says.

The suit asserts that trustee Don Criss made a remark implying that the board does not allow guests to speak.

A week after the meeting, Smith received a letter from the defendants chastising him for violating an item in COM's faculty code.

"The adverse action and conduct of defendants chill the plaintiff's right of speech, assembly and association," the suit says.

Consequently, Smith seeks unspecified monetary damages and declaratory judgments finding the school and Elam in violation of the complainant's Texas and U.S. constitutional rights.

He is represented by attorney Anthony P. Griffin of Galveston.

The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Kenneth M. Hoyt.

Case No. 3:11-cv-286

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