To the editor:

Did the Fort Leavenworth garrison commander and command sergeant major unintentionally violate a DoD directive against political activities by members of the Armed Forces by appearing in a photo with Pat Proctor, newly announced candidate for the Kansas House of Representatives? The picture of Col. Hung and Command Sgt. Maj. Jones in uniform and on either side of Proctor was taken at the Leavenworth-Lansing Area Chamber of Commerce quarterly military affairs committee social Nov. 6, but it appeared in the Leavenworth Times reader submitted photo section Nov. 13, the same day as Proctor’s candidacy was also featured.

For those unfamiliar with DoD Directive 1344.10, “It is considered to be in the same category as an order or regulation and military personnel violating its provisions can be considered in violation of Article 92 (failure to obey an order or regulation) of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The spirit and intent of the Directive is effectively the same as that of the Hatch Act for Federal civil servants.”

The Hatch Act has an extensive list of may and may not activities, but basically federal employees are forbidden to use their authority to affect the results of an election. They are also forbidden to run for office in a partisan election, to solicit or receive political contributions and to engage in political activities while on duty (and wearing an official uniform in the case of the DoD directive).

So did the colonel and the command sergeant major silently endorse Proctor’s candidacy by appearing in a photo with him? No, they did not, but it could give that appearance to some and federal employees must strive to avoid even the potential for election violations.  

What this photo really represents is bad judgment. Anyone who has ever submitted a photo to the Leavenworth Times knows that they are very prompt in printing reader submitted photos. Whether the photo was submitted by Proctor or someone known to him, appearing on the same day as his candidacy announcement could give appearances of military endorsement and possibly (though unintentionally) have placed Col. Hung and Command Sgt. Maj. Jones in an awkward position. Tripping over an ethical speed bump out of the starting gate is definitely not a good start to a political candidacy.