A spokesperson for Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources, demoted over a post she made on her personal Facebook account, is asking a federal judge to stop DNR from punishing her after she referred to a candidate for governor as an “ass clown” on social media.

According to a report in The Daily Record, Candus Thomson, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Natural Resources Police, was demoted from her position after making a critical comment about Ben Jealous’ decision to veto a reporter’s participation in a debate with Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, according to filings in U.S. District Court in Baltimore. Thomson is not seeking monetary damages but is asking a federal judge for a temporary restraining order and for a preliminary injunction that would, at least temporarily, reverse her demotion.

The newspaper reports that attorney James Astrachan, of Astrachan Gunst Thomas PC, in court filings wrote that, “It is clearly established law that a state actor cannot punish or sanction a state employee for exercising her constitutional right to free speech.”

Thomson’s demotion came after she responded to a post about Jealous vetoing Hagerstown Herald-Mail reporter Tamela Baker from participating in a scheduled debate. The post was made on her personal Facebook account at 5 a.m. from her home.

“Her comment was a single word: ‘a–clown,’ wrote Astrachan. “It was intended to be both strong and assertive and convey her belief that Mr. Jealous was acting in an ill-behaved and inappropriate manner.”

The Daily Record reported that Stephen Schatz, a spokesman for the Department of Natural Resources, declined to comment citing pending litigation and personnel issues.

Thomson has held the position with the Maryland Natural Resources Police since 2013 when she was hired under then-Gov. Martin O’Malley. Prior to joining the department, Thomson was a journalist for 40 years, including 25 at the Baltimore Sun.

Photo: Sebastian Pichler on Unsplash

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