Town Stands by Social Media Policy

by | Feb 2, 2018

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

East Greenwich, RI – The town, through the law firm Whalen, Corrente, Flanders, Kinder and Siket LLP, said Wednesday the RI-ACLU’s concerns with its new social media policy were “a solution without a problem.”

The RI-ACLU and the public learned of the letter, addressed to RI-ACLU Executive Director Steven Brown, through an article in the Providence Journal. According to sources at the Providence Journal, EG’s chief of staff Michaela Antunes emailed the letter to reporters there Wednesday. By close of day Thursday, Brown had not officially received the letter. (Read the letter here: Town of EG to RI-ACLU).

(East Greenwich News did not receive an email with the letter. The Town of East Greenwich officially ceased sharing information voluntarily with EG News earlier this week.)

Letter author Meghan Siket argued that the new social media policy, adopted by the Town Council Jan. 22, did not violate employees’ First Amendment rights.

Brown has faulted the policy’s restrictions for being “extremely vague and open-ended.”

Siket argued that the policy “appropriately strikes a balance between the interests of town employees'[sic] to speak as citizens addressing matters of public concern and the town’s interests, as an employer, in promoting a non-discriminatory and efficient workplace.”

She agreed, however, with Brown’s argument that “an employee privately retweeting or responding to some of President Trump’s less tolerant comments over this past year could very well find themselves in violation of this policy.”

“If an employee were to harass a colleague online based on their national origin, for example using President Trump’s less tolerant comments, the Town absolutely would have a legal obligation to address that conduct,” Siket wrote.

“The Town’s attempt to rewrite the policy via their interpretive letter is unavailing,” countered Brown. “The language of the policy is out there for all to see, and its scope simply is not as limited as Ms. Siket claims it to be.”

Siket, in the letter, said her law firm represented the town in “labor and employment matters.” Her colleague, Tim Cavazza, is representing the town in litigation and negotiations with the firefighters.

This is legal work above what Town Solicitor David D’Agostino performs for the town. D’Agostino’s law firm, Gorham and Gorham, is paid $11,000 a month for his services. It’s unclear what the town is paying Whalen, Corrente, Flanders, Kinder and Siket LLP. An APRA (Access to Public Records Act)  request to the town for legal invoices has yet to be fulfilled.

Find the town’s social media policy and the letter from the ACLU here.

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2 Comments

  1. Heather Tibbitts

    Of what use is a right that cannot be exercised? Our rights were carefully enumerated by the Founders for good reason. . We should be very careful about ceding them.

    Reply
  2. Robert Cashman

    Thank God I don’t work for the town to be silenced by the only partially correct letter from Ms. Siket. However, there are two problems that come immediately to mind. 1. Is Mr. D’Agostino not our solicitor being paid to defend edicts of the Town Manager and Town Council? 2. Isn’t he capable to handle this task? If not, perhaps his services should be terminated. I’m sure Ms. Siket’s letter will be in the bill to the Town, but will be buried in Mr. Cavazza’s expenses. Ms. Siket is correct about inappropriate conduct by employees violating laws, but policy issues language is too vague as Mr. Brown pointed out. Does that mean that if a town employee off duty comments they do not like the Patriots and hopes that they lose, they could be terminated? Under the policy as written, YES!!!! Just more smoke from our illustrious Town Administration and Council. November is coming!!!!

    Reply

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