LONGMONT — A city employee said Sunday that he could be fired for political comments he made in his free time.
Glenn Spagnuolo, a city recreation employee, said his guest appearance on KHOW radio’s Caplis and Silverman show four weeks ago earned him a visit Friday from his superiors at the city.
Spagnuolo said he was escorted from his office and told the city would be investigating the comments he made on the show, and the investigation could lead to his being fired. He said he was told the investigation would determine what effect his appearance on the talk show, in defense University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill, had on the city of Longmont.
Rigo Leal, spokesman for Longmont, said he couldn’t comment on the issue.
“What’s going on is that there is a personnel issue, and I can’t tell you a whole lot about it,” he said.
Spagnuolo said he has been asked to continue working during the investigation.
Spagnuolo supports Churchill and has taken other local stands, including speaking out against the Wal-Mart Corp. and leading the effort to change the name of Chivington Drive in Longmont. He said the talk show hosts had been asking him for weeks to appear on their show to talk about the Churchill situation.
Churchill is the CU professor who in 2001 penned an essay assessing the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, calling some victims of the attacks “little Eichmanns.” He later said the reference was to bureaucratic and technological workers who enable the U.S. government to engage in foreign polities that encourage “blow back,” such as the terrorist attacks.
While he’s not sure what comments may have caused the investigation, he has an idea. When asked by one of the radio hosts whether he agreed with Churchill that the Denver police were criminals. Spagnuolo said he responded: “The police ... have been functioning as a paramilitary force.” He then reportedly drew comparisons between the Denver police and Chicago and Miami police in response to political activities.
He said his comments were taken by the radio hosts to mean he advocated killing police officers.
Spagnuolo said Sunday that after the interview he received a call from a Longmont officer who asked him to confirm that he was on the show. He did. He said the officer wouldn’t say why she was asking, but that he was later reassured by police that there wasn’t a problem.
He said he has long kept his work at the city and his political activities separate, but not secret.
“It was after work on my own time,” Spagnuolo said.
He said he was not introduced as a city employee on the show, and that he didn’t even mention that he lives in Longmont.
“They treated me like I was a criminal and that stays in people’s minds,” he said of being escorted out in front of other employees who are his subordinates. “They just brought my whole outside life into the workplace.”
Spagnuolo said he doesn’t think the actions are typical of the city.
“I thought it was very out of character for Longmont. They’ve known I have been an open advocate for a long time. It is no secret to them,” he said. “I never saw this coming, to be honest.”
He is being represented by attorney David Lane, who is also representing Churchill in his fight with the University of Colorado.
Spagnuolo said he has a right to free speech.
“I know I rub people who are more on the right-wing conservative side of things the wrong way,” he said. “But no more than they rub me the wrong way.”
Pierrette J. Shields can be reached at 303-684-5273, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.