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CBS 19 Investigates: Email Politics at DFPS

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Documents obtained by CBS 19 show employees at a state agency being told not to support a Smith County Political Candidate, raising legal and ethical questions.

In November several people came to CBS 19 regarding an email. They claimed it was circulating inside the department of family and protective services and that it was telling employees to "un-like" John Jarvis on Facebook.

Jarvis is running against sitting family Judge Carole Clark.

Thanks to the Texas Public Information Act, the Department of Family and Protective Services was forced to release the original email.

An employee named Shirley Vause wrote:

"From legal: If you have liked John Jarvis's page on Facebook, 'unlike' it. If you are asked anything about John Jarvis do not say anything."

"It's not a generic email about all Facebook," Jarvis said after seeing the original document. "It's a specific email about my Facebook."

Jarvis said he believes it was a calculated attack.

"I'm sure no one wants to get fired for clicking a like on a Facebook page, but certainly they went and clicked on a few of them," he said.

In fact, the DFPS falls under Texas Health and Human Services. That agency's human resources policy at says employees are guaranteed "the full rights of freedom of association and political participation, subject to applicable state and federal law."

"That employee acted with what she thought she was told to do but it was not directed to her by legal or anyone in our leadership to say that," DFPS Spokesperson Shari Pulliam said.

Pulliam said the email was just an over-reaction to a general meeting about social media usage and political participation. She said she believes it might be traced to a policy saying "an employee may not use any state-owned or state-leased vehicle, equipment, telephone, materials, or time in connection with any type of political campaign."

"What they do on their own time is what they do on their own time," Pulliam said.

Jarvis said that doesn't explain how he was singled out.

"I think I was targeted because Child Protective Services is, I believe, supporting me and they appear in her court quite a bit," he said.

"I didn't know a thing about it until you mentioned it to me this morning,' Clark said. "I've had no communication of any kind with the department about any of this."

Clark said she's been too busy on the bench to even worry about the election. And she's not sure whether infringing on a Facebook "like" qualifies as political censorship.

"I wouldn't even pretend to know the legal ramifications of that," Clark said. "I'm not an expert on that. So I wouldn't even really know what to comment."

A second email went out to the same employees who received the first one just one day after CBS 19 requested the original email.

It says: "The purpose of this email is to clarify DFPS's policy on Facebook usage by staff. You were recently sent an email by Shirley Vause, Administrative Assistant for Amy Brewer, directing you on Facebook policy. Please disregard that email and follow the policy as stated below."

Pulliam said no disciplinary action was taken, owing to the fact that it was an "honest mistake."

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