In My Opinion As An Elected Supervisor of Exeter Township, this Non-Disparagement Clause is an Attempt by Schnee Legal Services to Suppress my Speech and Engage in Retaliatory Action.
The actions of Schnee Legal Services demonstrate a consistent disregard for transparency and public discourse, invoking concerns around potential First Amendment rights violations. The firm appears determined to facilitate the operation of government in an opaque manner, thereby avoiding necessary public scrutiny. Its handling of right-to-know laws further supports this perspective: I am, as a Supervisor inexplicably, required to submit formal right-to-know requests to access invoices and contracts that other supervisors receive promptly, without delay or obstruction.
The firm's misuse of attorney-client privilege to encompass non-legal matters also raises significant concerns. This is exemplified by the evident lack of understanding around the application of the attorney work product doctrine within the context of public government.
Moreover, the firm has attempted to curtail the First Amendment speech rights of myself as a Supervisor by including a retaliatory provision within its contract. This provision takes the form of a 'non-disparagement' clause, inserted into the firm's contract with the township. The inclusion of this clause appears to be a deliberate attempt to suppress my freedom of speech as an elected official, giving rise to repeated acts of retaliation against me.
Any expression by me that is deemed unfavorable by Schnee Legal Services invokes this non-disparagement clause, resulting in a $1,000 fine levied against the township. In effect, Schnee Legal Services is manipulating contractual agreements to penalize freedom of speech, which is a core tenet of democratic governance.
Below is Schnee’s Non-Disparagement Clause in his Schnee Legal Services Contract, specially designed to suppress my Speech as a Supervisor and to retaliate against me when Schnee doesn’t like what as an elected public figure I might say.
You, on behalf of the Township, its public officials and employees, agree to not disparage or make any defamatory or slanderous statements about this firm and/or Attorney J. Chadwick Schnee, Esq. through any means, including but not limited to social media postings, conversations or written materials. Any violation of the non-disparagement provision of this Agreement shall entitle the other party to bring a legal action for appropriate equitable relief as well as damages. In addition to any other rights or remedies available at law, in equity, or by statute, the parties consent to the specific enforcement of the non-disparagement provision of this Agreement through an injunction or restraining order issued by an appropriate court, without the requirement of posting a bond. Further, we agree that this firm may assess an additional fee up to $1,000.00 per violation, up to an annual maximum of $10,000.00, of the non-disparagement provision of this Agreement.
While it's not unusual to encounter non-disparagement clauses in the private sector - particularly as stipulations tied to severance packages following involuntary termination of employment - such provisions are decidedly uncommon as mechanisms to regulate the speech of public officials. In the present circumstance, the non-disparagement clause imposed by Schnee Legal Services is characterized by excessive breadth.
This overreaching provision is virtually guaranteed to attract substantial judicial scrutiny, as it appears designed to stifle criticism from a particular public servant in their professional role - specifically, myself in my capacity as Supervisor. It is widely perceived as an attempt to curb public discourse and could, therefore, be considered a challenge to the principles of democratic governance and transparency.
Upon reviewing the aforementioned contract from Schnee Legal Services, it is evident that the firm exhibits a pronounced discomfort with my online public commentary. In fact, the persistent focus on my digital remarks suggests an intense fixation, potentially driven by fear.
It's clear that the firm's reaction is not merely defensive, but has taken on a patently retaliatory quality. The nature of these retaliatory actions seems to bear no connection to any personal or private affairs. Rather, they are intrinsically tied to my responsibilities and obligations as a public servant.
The threats issued by Schnee Legal Services can be interpreted as efforts to obscure government transparency and accountability. Furthermore, these actions raise serious concerns about potential ethical breaches, suggesting that Schnee Legal Services may be engaging in practices that are not only inappropriate for a solicitor, but arguably corrupt.