In the last week several social media posts by Gardner city officials raised eyebrows and called into question the level of professionalism at city hall.
Lee Moore, council member, kicked off the storm by posting on his city Facebook page regarding a conversation he had with an unidentified African-American woman who had attended a council meeting.
Moore, in startling narrative prose, explained that he approached the woman after the meeting and asked if she had anything she wanted to share with him. The woman, according to Moore, had the temerity to tell him that she felt underrepresented at the council because all elected officials in Gardner were white men. Moore then proceeded to take to his councilman social media page to berate the woman for having the gumption to raise such a subject.
“I could only reply that my skin color is not something I can do anything about,” he thundered. “It has nothing to do at all with my colleagues’ or my capacity to represent anyone,” he wrote. He ended his incredible post with the words “don’t be a bigot.”
Gardner News broke that story on June 20, and it predictably did not go down well with some members of the community. Within hours, with neither apology nor explanation, Moore apparently took down the post and the councilman Facebook page was pulled down.
And then June 21, someone at city hall decided to use the city’s Facebook page to launch an attack on The Gardner News claiming this paper only focuses on negative stories about the city. The post cited a story that had been published more than a week before as evidence of inaccuracies and bias. Established professional practice calls for the city, or any other aggrieved party, to point out inaccuracies or misrepresentations for corrective action. This was never done. That post, dubbed “Fact Check,” spurred backlash. It too, with neither apology nor explanation, was pulled down within hours, although the city has yet to retract it from other media outlets.
We suggest social media training, checks and balances as to who has access to official city channels, and diversity training. The reality that Gardner’s official social media pages can be used to launch an attack on a citizen or newspaper is frightening – and opens the city to possible litigation.
Let alone that it makes Gardner look bad.
Professional conduct extends to social media, and we remind Moore and others at city hall that anything they post on social media could have unintended consequences.
Our advice: think through what you want to say and, if possible, consult others before posting.
It’s the same advice we give our children.