A former Maryland state government employee who lost his job over controversial social media posts last summer is suing the state, alleging he was wrongly fired and his rights were violated.
Arthur “Mac” Love IV had posted memes and comments on Facebook that sympathized with Kyle Rittenhouse, a teenager charged with shooting racial justice and police reform demonstrators in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Love had worked for the Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives since 2015, holding the position of deputy director at the time he was fired last August.
The director of that office, Steve McAdams, said in a statement the “divisive images and statements” that Love posted were counter to the mission of the office. And a spokeswoman for Gov. Larry Hogan said the posts were “obviously totally inappropriate.”
The Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives oversees the state’s ethnic and cultural commissions, community service programs and religious outreach.
In a lawsuit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court, Love says that he’s a victim of “viewpoint discrimination” and should not have lost his job for social media posts made on his private accounts during his personal time.
The governor’s office stands by its decision to fire Love.
“While we cannot comment on pending litigation, we are confident that this personnel decision was entirely legal and appropriate,” said Mike Ricci, a spokesman for Hogan.
Love alleges his rights were violated, including his First Amendment right to free speech. He also alleges that he was wrongfully terminated from his job. The lawsuit says that Love has suffered “significant damages including psychological and emotional harms” as well as a loss of income and career opportunities.
Love is seeking an unspecified amount of financial damages, as well as punitive damages against the state.
Love, who lives in Crofton, has found it “exceptionally difficult” to find work in politics or public service since he was fired, said Gary Collins, who is acting as a spokesman for Love.
“The nature of the termination that occurred, it harmed him as a person and it’s quite unfortunate,” Collins said.
The lawsuit says that there was a national conversation ongoing last summer about policing, gun rights, race and other issues.
“Mr. Love participated in this national dialogue on these matters of public concern in his capacity as a private citizen, while acting far outside the scope of — and off duty from — his government position, using his private social media account and his personal electronic device,” Love wrote in the lawsuit.
Love made posts “communicating his personal belief that Mr. Rittenhouse’s actions may have been justified under the doctrine of self-defense,” he wrote in the lawsuit.
In one post to a political Facebook group, Love reposted pictures appearing to show Rittenhouse cleaning graffiti with the words: “I’m grateful that conservatives are rallying behind this kid. He genuinely seems like a good person.” It went on to denigrate the two men Rittenhouse was charged with killing.
Another meme posted by Love shows a photo of people marching with the words, “Defund the police! We can police our own communities.” The next photo shows Rittenhouse carrying his gun with the words “policed his community.” And a third photo shows a distressed person yelling.
Rittenhouse is awaiting trial on murder charges.
Other photos and memes posted or recirculated by Love seemed to express support for police brutality (“Don’t be a thug if you can’t take a slug!”) and denouncing “pedophilia BS” from “the left” in reference to a children’s cartoon with a bisexual lead character.
Love’s lawsuit names Hogan, McAdams, Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford, Hogan’s deputy chief of staff Allison Mayer, Hogan’s financial director Mona Vaidya and press secretary Shareese Churchill. It also names Matthew A. Clark as a defendant, saying that Clark was Hogan’s chief of staff at the time, even though Clark had left the State House three months earlier.
Love’s attorneys, Jeffrey E. McFadden of Grasonville, and John Pierce of Los Angeles, declined to comment. Pierce is the founder of the National Constitutional Law Union, which gives financial support to Pierce’s law firm and other lawyers representing clients “whose Constitutional rights, civil liberties and similar rights are being violated or in jeopardy.”
Pierce formerly represented Rittenhouse and also is representing people arrested in connection with a mob that overran the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, disrupting the certification of the 2020 presidential election.