Topeka A leading Republican lawmaker wanted a state employee fired for putting an anti-war bumper sticker with a strong swear word on her car, which she parks in the Statehouse garage.
House Majority Leader Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, dispatched the director of the Kansas Legislative Research Department two weeks ago to tell Ashley Holm her job was in jeopardy unless she removed the sticker from her car.
The two-word sticker uses the four-letter "f" word followed by the word "war."
Holm, the research department's legislative fellow, at first agreed to remove the sticker but then changed her mind.
Now, Merrick said others will have to decide Holm's future, but he remains upset by the sticker.
Merrick, a former Marine, said he was mostly upset by the offensive word, especially because Holm parks her car in a high-traffic spot in the parking garage.
"I'm all for people expressing themselves, free speech and all that," he said, "but I don't appreciate offensive language being on a bumper sticker in a public garage that's owned by the people of the state."
Two weeks ago, Merrick sent Alan Conroy, director of the research department, to tell Holm to remove the sticker.
She at first agreed but then changed her mind, prompting Conroy to meet with her again and tell Holm that her job was in jeopardy.
She was reminded of a work agreement prohibiting staff members from joining in partisan political activity.
But Holm refused to remove the sticker and it was still on her car at the end of work on Friday.
At this point, Merrick said, "people other than me" will have to decide Holm's employment future."
Conroy said he couldn't discuss the situation because it was a personnel matter. But he said he wasn't aware of any other time when a state lawmaker wanted a research department employee fired in reaction to a bumper sticker.
Other legislative leaders questioned whether firing Holm was appropriate.
"I don't know what I'd do about that," said Senate Majority Leader Derek Schmidt, R-Independence.
And Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, said dismissing Holm would be unwise, although he found the use of profanity on any sticker of questionable taste.
"The worst speech imaginable is protected," Hensley said. "We shouldn't get into the business of censuring what people put on their automobiles."