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Springfield City Councilors Want Review Of Social Media Policy After Firing Of Mayoral Aide

Darryl Moss at City Hall rally
Paul Tuthill
/
WAMC

    The firing of a longtime mayoral aide and community activist has led Springfield City Councilors to question the city’s social media policy. 

    At a hearing with the city’s top personnel official, councilors called for the social media policy to be re-evaluated saying it appears to be enforced arbitrarily and discipline for infractions is too severe.

   "We know people have lost their jobs and certainly there has been damage to people's reputations because of it as well," said City Councilor Melvin Edwards.

    The General Government Committee, chaired by Edwards, held the remote meeting. He said  the policy, which is intended to prevent city employees from making inappropriate or hateful comments or disclosing private information about others online, has been “weaponized.”

   " I think we need to be very careful of the slippery slope we are on," said Edwards.

   William Mahoney, the city’s director of human resources and labor relations. said the social media policy is akin to other workplace rules that prohibit sexual harassment or bullying.  He said if a complaint is received it is investigated and the employee’s supervisor decides the discipline.             

   The social media policy was implemented through an executive order by Mayor Domenic Sarno in 2017 and is written into the contracts of 11 of the city’s 12 employee unions.

    "It is not unique to Springfield. You can look at other area cities and towns and they also have some sort of social media policy," said Mahoney.

    Mahoney could not say how many complaints for alleged violations of the policy have been made or reveal any disciplinary steps that were taken.

    It is known that two Springfield Police Officers were fired over social media posts.

    Darryl Moss, an aide to Sarno for 12 years, was fired Oct 1st.   In a Facebook post, Moss commented on a linked news article about President Trump’s defense of 17-year-old Wisconsin shooting suspect Kyle Rittenhouse.  

    “This is equal to a declaration of war … but this is America!  Sundown Sunrise Ass Country,” Moss wrote.     He tagged another person and added, “Grab the rifles.”

      Sarno said the firing of Moss shows the social media policy is being evenly enforced and that he has “zero tolerance” for violations.

      Moss and his supporters in the Black community allege he was fired for his outspoken support of Black Lives Matter.

     City Councilor Trayce Whitfield, a BLM activist, said in light of what happened in Moss’s case the social media policy and how it is applied need review.

    " In my eyes, it is used as a retaliation tool," said Whitfield.

     City Councilor Victor Davilla said the social media policy could be used to harass people.

      "Anybody can make a complaint," said Davila. "I could troll people all day and inundate with complaints just because I don't like a particular employee or disagree with them."

      Mahoney said the city does not monitor the social media accounts of its employees.

    

   

The record-setting tenure of Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. The 2011 tornado and its recovery that remade the largest city in Western Massachusetts. The fallout from the deadly COVID outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers Home. Those are just a few of the thousands and thousands of stories WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill has covered for WAMC in his nearly 17 years with the station.
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