Criticizing the French civil service comes at a high price in France, it would seem.
An official is being investigated by police after he published a controversial account of his experiences working at a town hall in Pontault-Combault in the north-central region of Seine-et-Marne two years ago.
Titled ‘Abruti de Fonctionnaire’ (‘Idiotic Civil Servant’), the book apparently charted “several years of moral harassment” that he’d experienced there as an employee.
The author, 39-year-old father Jérôme Morin used the pseudonym Henri Rouant-Pleuret, and even changed the name of the town.
In real life, however, he was suspended from his job for 18 months.
Now, two years after the book was published, Morin has been charged by police after the town hall lodged a complaint against him for defamation.
Mayor Monique Delessard told TF1 television that the book was an “open attack against the town and its politics” and a “slanderous description of the elected representatives, as [the author] is insulting his superiors and colleagues.”
Morin, however, says he has no regrets. “It did me some good,” Morin told the television channel. “If I could do it again, I would – but maybe under different conditions, after putting things in perspective.”
This is not the first time a civil servant has ended up in trouble for writing negatively about their job.
In August 2010 33-year-old French regional government official Aurélie Boullet – writing under the pseudonym Zoé Shepard – caused uproar when she published the book ‘Absolument dé-bor-dée!’ (‘Absolutely snowed under!’), an ironic account of work in a fictional town hall, based on her own experience.
“After starting my job”, Boullet told The Local in an interview in February. “I quickly discovered that there wasn’t enough work to do”, that there were “too many people boasting about being ‘snowed under’ when they had nothing to do”, and that the important cases, which were actually of interest were “left to one side”.
She was also suspended from her job as a result.
“I was suspended for eight months in all before being allowed to return,” Boullet said, “though I moved to a different department.”