|Legal Opinion: |
Text of Document: January 13, 1998 (updated 2017)
You have the following question: Is the city legally required to give the chief of police a leave of absence to run for office of sheriff of the county. According to your letters of December 22 and December 30, 1997, the chief of police insists he is entitled to a leave of absence to run for office. I assume as accurate the statement in your letter of December 22, that there is a provision in the municipal code declaring that police officers will not be granted a leave of absence to run for political office. I also assume that no other provisions in the municipal code authorize leaves of absence for other city employees, and that the city has not granted such leaves to other employees
In my opinion, your view that he is not entitled to a leave of absence for that purpose, even in light of Tennessee Code Annotated, section 7-51-1503, is correct.
Most cities have ordinances or private acts prohibiting political activity on the part of their employees. However, Tennessee Code Annotated, section 7-51-1501, gave municipal employees the right to run for political office (at the municipal level, only if authorized by local ordinance or law). But that statute does not require any municipality to grant an employee a leave of absence to run for political office at any level. In addition, it repealed the city’s ordinance restricting the political activity of its employees only to the extent it was inconsistent with the statute. The last sentence in Section 4-228(1) provides that, “A leave of absence will not be granted to a municipal government employee to engage in any of the political activities enumerated above.” Nothing in that sentence appears inconsistent with Tennessee Code Annotated, section 7-51-1503: "Any time off from work used by the employee for participation in political activities shall be limited to earned days off, vacation days, or by any other arrangements worked out between the employee and the municipal or county governmental body."
Sidney D. Hemsley
Senior Law Consultant