dangerous to the citizens. Plaintiff, in the questionnaire, does allege, however, that the employees are
underpaid, which shows us that the questionnaire's tie to supposed understaffing was used merely to gripe
of being overworked and underpaid.
Nor did Plaintiff state that his objection to the physical fitness requirements had to do with the
effectiveness of the fire and rescue squad's performance. The questionnaire instead suggested that employees
should not be fired simply because they could not meet certain physical standards. While Plaintiff did allege
that the current employee turnover rate has a tax impact on the public, this effect is not the kind of dangerous
condition illustrated in Beckwith. Moreover, Plaintiff uses this concern to propel his real inquiry: whether
the candidates would support a longevity system of pay increases.
When read in its totality, the questionnaire had far more to do with Plaintiff's grievances as an
employee than with concerns of a public nature. See Connick, 103 S.Ct. at 1690-91 (questionnaire did not
seek to inform public about actual or potential wrongdoing or breach of public trust and therefore did not
receive First Amendment protection).
Furthermore, Plaintiff limited the questionnaire's audience to candidates who were seeking positions
on the Burke County Board of Commissioners. Because of this limited audience, Plaintiff's argument that
he was addressing a public concern garners less weight in our balancing process. See Morgan v. Ford, 6 F.3d
750, 754 n. 5 (11th Cir.1993) (employee's attempt to make speech public is a relevant factor in public concern
analysis); Johnson v. University of Cincinnati, 215 F.3d 561, 588 (6th Cir.2000) (had plaintiff presented
concerns in public venue, instead of letter to president and Board of trustees, balancing would have weighed
in plaintiff's favor) (Kennedy J., concurring and dissenting); Brewster v. Bd. of Educ., 149 F.3d 971, 981 (9th
Cir.1998) (speech directed at limited audience weighs against protected speech).
Whatever Plaintiff's intentions, we conclude, as a matter of law, that his questionnaire did not present
the kind of speech that was of great public concern for the Pickering balancing test.
The government, acting as employer, is afforded broad discretion for its acts. See Johnson v. Clifton,
74 F.3d 1087, 1092 (11th Cir.1996). Defendant argues that it has a legitimate interest in ensuring that
Plaintiff "maintain[s] public confidence in the ability of [the Burke County fire and rescue services] to carry
out its public safety mission." We accept this as a compelling and legitimate government interest. See
Connick, 103 S.Ct. at 1692 (government has a "legitimate purpose in promoting efficiency and integrity in
the discharge of official duties, and to maintain proper discipline in the public service.") (citation omitted).