Modern communications move more quickly and are often much less formal than they were even a decade ago.
Today, most of us walk around with the entire world and every form of communication possible in our pockets, other than a pen and paper.
Those changes have seeped into the professional world, as seen in the struggle Brunswick Police Chief Kevin Jones is in while trying to get pay raises to match promotions he made last year.
During a recent Superior Court hearing in which the officers were asking a judge to compel the city to provide the raises, the question was whether Jones had authorization to approve and promote several officers to the rank of corporal based on a text message from city manager Jim Drumm that simply read, “OK.”
Given how people communicate today, we believe Jones was right to treat the text message as authorization from his boss. Jones told Drumm of his plans and sought approval from his supervisor. It may not have come in the form of an official letter or memo, but given the proliferation of electronic communications, it was reasonable for Jones to consider the affirmative response was approval for the promotions, complete with pay raises to about $18 per hour.
Texting is essentially a modern form of letter writing. So are emails. No longer are official memos or letters needed in almost any other business, why should they be required in city government?
The officers rightfully sued the city because they deserve their promotions. They are men and women who have dedicated their careers to protecting city residents in jobs that often put them in harm’s way. Even at an increased rate of $18 per hour, they are not paid enough.
Aside from the pay, Drumm should have known how texting “OK” to Jones would be received. Any person in Jones’ situation would have come away with the same conclusion. Even if written confirmation of the promotions is needed to be reflected in their pay, the affirmative text message was enough for Jones to take the next steps.
The court has been asked to offer a summary judgement in this case by both sides, which would eliminate the need for a civil trial. We hope the court sees it the way we do and rules in favor of the officers.
Jones acted on word from his boss that, although not formal, should be considered official indication that the promotions and accompanying raises were “OK.”