Letter to the Editor: Where Did Social Media Policy Come From?

by | Feb 7, 2018

During the last town council meeting (1/22/18), the new Social Media Policy was vetted by the council. During that time, Councilman Mark Schwager tried to ascertain where the policy originated from.

​Town Solicitor ​David D’Agostino at first said he had it in his office but was hesitant in his answer, and then ​Town Manager Corrigan stated she received it from Whelan, Corrente (Flanders, Kinder and Siket)’s office. Later on during the same discussion, ​Town Council President Cienki tried to frame it as though it went through several variation before the town’s Personnel Board rewrote major sections of it.
In a subsequent statement to the ProJo, Ms. Corrigan stated the policy “was vetted by the Town of East Greenwich’s highly-regarded personnel board, department directors, including fire and police, and the town council.” That was certainly a surprise to the employees who attended that meeting as they claimed they’d not seen it at all.

The Personnel Board had only one meeting in – on Nov. 30. If you look at the minutes (which you will have to request since the town has not posted them on their updated website), the social media policy is discussed. However, according to the minutes, the items discussed were cell phone usage, CDL licenses, “Review Internet Policy for the compatibility with the Social Media Policy Section e” and “Discussed a long range plan to develop a new comprehensive manual including anti-discrimination, sexual harassment, drugs etc. and contradicting policies in CBA’s that may trump these.”  Nowhere listed is a discussion about a new Social Media Policy being created and/or new sections of said Social Media Policy section e. The discussion that did take place appears to be an informal discussion of whatever the former policy was and updates to it.

Someone lied during the Town Council meeting. It would have made sense if the Personnel Board had appeared at the meeting to clarify which parts of the Social Media Policy they had agreed to and why. So far the town has claimed publicly that three different groups had a hand in creating it but only Whelan, Corrente, Flanders, Kinder and Siket offered any defense of it to the ACLU when challenged. Is lying during a Town Council meeting a punishable offense? It seems to me that anyone who is elected or has chosen to serve the town who lies during a public meeting should be sanctioned by the state, especially since there is a pattern of misleading statements. The Personnel Board is described as a board that advises the the Town Council and the Town Manager on matters of personnel administration, including compensation of all elected officials of the town and School Committee. However during all the current turmoil within the town over employees and former employees, only once has the council or the current manager reached out to this board for their expertise.  

The new policy is as vague as it is overreaching. What constitutes an offense? While it is understood that private companies can hire and fire at will, the council is aware that it does not apply to public employees. That public employees have the right to speech in the interest of public concern and safety – like our current temporary fire chief who lives 80 plus miles away and is not available during peak call times such as the weekends or holidays. That is a public safety concern, especially given that East Greenwich has had several emergencies that other departments have had to cover for us. I’d hope that current members of the fire and police departments would feel free to notify citizens of this potentially dangerous situation.

Renu Englehart
2005 Division Road

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David Caldwell
David Caldwell
February 7, 2018 8:36 pm

Ms. Englehart’s research casts serious doubt on the Town government’s portrayal of these events. But this is hardly news, given the steady stream of misinformation and disinformation from the Town government. Serious doubt is appropriate when evaluating all Town government communications. Other recent examples:

1. The “51%” (actually 13-14%) tax increase, thoroughly debunked by citizen researchers and mathematical common sense,

2. Who hires the Finance Director (according to the Charter, it’s the Town Manager — see https://ecode360.com/9709991 — but Cienki insists otherwise),

3. What’s actually *in* the social media policy (Cienki falsely said at a Town Council meeting that it applied only to work hours, before having the section about non-work hours read to her by a member of the public during public comment; read for yourself at http://6qsvt3wb3z42m9dpl1rx2521.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Town-of-East-Greenwich-Social-Media-Policy.pdf and you’ll see how her statement was false).

The alleged “vetting” of this policy by the Personnel Board appears to be just more of the smokescreening to which residents of East Greenwich have sadly become accustomed.

The silence of the members of the Personnel Board to date on the social media policy is deafening. Hopefully a journalist will ask them — all of them, not just the “labor lawyers” touted by the Town Council (who all practice on the management side, not the labor side, as I understand it, so have their own biases about whose interests are worth protecting) — and see whether they are unanimously willing to publicly endorse this policy being portrayed by the Town government as their handiwork.


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