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St. Mary’s Tourism Director Allegedly Fired For Not Supporting Donald Trump

Jason Aul

LEONARDTOWN, Md. — On June 10, the Visit St. Mary’s MD (VSMMD) board of directors put out a press release stating that they would part ways with their executive director, Jason Aul. However, Aul later put out his own release, alleging that the board terminated him based on his “personal political opinion,” specifically as it related to his disapproval of President Donald Trump and his supporters.

Aul served as the executive director of VSMMD for roughly two years and was the first person to hold the position. The press release which was issued by board of directors chair, Regina Faden, even mentioned how integral Aul was to the construction of VSMMD.

“Under [Aul’s] leadership, a new identity was established for VSMMD, and progress was made on key strategic priorities,” the press release stated. “The change in leadership will allow VSMMD to refresh the tourism effort and to bring new energy toward goals and strategies contained in the Tourism and Hospitality Master Plan. The Board will soon embark on a widespread effort to attract a new leader to VSSMD.”

The notice of termination caught Aul by surprise, who said he has yet to receive any official papers to note that he has been terminated as of June 11. In fact, he said that he found out of the news from the initial press release.

However, Aul has found serious concern and disagreement with the reasoning which has been verbally provided in regards to his termination. He said that the work he has produced throughout his tenure was done well and that he believes the board of directors was “pressured by the County Commissioners to fire [him] due to [his] political beliefs.”

The VSMMD board of directors previously stated that they had been reviewing social media posts and comments that had been made by Aul, which showed his distaste for Trump supporters. However, the board apparently found a serious problem in his comments.

“If you are still a supporter of Donald Trump, I do not respect you,” Aul previously posted on his social media, as reported by The County Times. “I will continue to live my life as best as I can, love who I love, be friendly with whom I am friendly, and work diligently with all my colleagues and business partners. None of that will change… However, if you still support Donald Trump, I do not respect you.”

Aul addressed his comments in his press release, saying that he has only posted “privately, on [his] own social media,” and on his own time. He also addressed how he has kept his politics out of his work and has been recognized in the past with “positive performance reviews and accolades received from the community at large.”

“In short, this was nothing more than a political hit on my personal political beliefs, plain and simple,” Aul said in his statement. “I wrote these comments in good faith, believing that in Maryland, the birthplace of religious toleration, an employer carrying out public functions would certainly respect the personal expression of my personal opinions in a manner that in no way, shape, or form related to my work. However, sadly, I was mistaken to believe this.”

The St. Mary’s County Director of Economic Development Chris Kaselemis, who oversees tourism among many other industries in the county, declined to comment on the situation citing it as “a personnel matter.”

Aul noted that he has since “retained a lawyer to protect [him] from additional attacks and violation of [his] labor rights.”

“This issue is bigger than myself,” Aul said. “It is an attack on our collective freedom of expression, freedom of ideals, and freedom of speech… It is my wish that we soon come together to see beyond our political differences and work together as a nation.”

Read both full statements below.

Contact Zach at zach.hill@thebaynet.com

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