Should The Mayor & Council Put Disclaimers on Their Social Media Posts?


On October 22, 2014, the council, by a vote of 3-2, (Yes: Becky, Nolan, Redmond; NoL Card, Ryan)  approved a resolution (R-14-220) to require everyone affiliated with the town (from any town employees. elected officials, or even volunteers) to include a disclaimer when they comment on an unofficial Highlands Facebook group page or any other social media outlet. The resolution was originally part of the consent agenda, meaning that it could pass in a single reading and without any public discussion or input.

The disclaimer in question states: in (any) posting (on the Highlands Facebook page or anywhere considered social media) that the comment, posting or statement from that individual is a statement, comment or posting of that individual only and does not represent an official statement, comment or posting on behalf of the Borough of Highlands.

So something along the lines of, for example, Frank Nolan posts something to the effect “All the people in Highlands have no hearts” – He should post “All the people of Highlands have no hearts ~ This statement is from Frank Nolan, resident and does not represent an official statement, comment of posting on behalf of the Borough of Highlands.”

But neither he or other “officials” are adhering to their own resolutions.  See further examples:

frank nolan 1215

And here is another example:

franknolans post
One example was on the Highlands Facebook page, one was on his personal Facebook page. The issue isn’t whether you agree or don’t agree with his statements, the issue is as per R-14-220;

any elected Borough official, (Frank is an elected official who voted Yes for this resolution) or other Borough official, employee, agent, representative or volunteer, including appointees to boards, commissions, committees or subcommittees, who wishes to post on the Facebook page “Highlands New Jersey,” or other similar social media site (He posted on The Highlands Facebook Page and his Facebook page which is technically a similar social media site) which is currently or may be in the future established, shall state in such posting that the comment, posting or statement from that individual is a statement, comment or posting of that individual only and does not represent an official statement, comment or posting on behalf of the Borough of Highlands.”  (No such disclaimers were made)

The way I see it, there are two possible courses of action:

1.  Abolish R-14-220, as no-one, including the people that drafted and voted yes for it, are adhering to it.

OR

2. Start including the disclaimer that you (Nolan, Redmond, and Kane) insisted was necessary. By not including this disclaimer, it is a slap in the face to your constituents and gives the perception that the council believes they are above their own resolution.

In my opinion, if they want to *start* or *try* to mend fences between residents and residents, residents and council, and other divisions in town, then they need to lead by example and just do the right thing.

21 thoughts on “Should The Mayor & Council Put Disclaimers on Their Social Media Posts?

  1. barbara iannucci

    I strongly oppose R14-220. It was a knee-jerk reaction (that could also be argued as a very targeted action) by a select few on Council to try and ‘control’ any adverse speech on public social media. It passed without ANY PUBLIC INPUT which made it even more of a travesty.

    The only statement on record justifying the so-called critical need for this resolution had to do with ‘the daily 2-3 hours a day’ spent in answering ‘confused’ phone calls from paid employees. Proof of those wasted hours (as requested by a fellow council member) have yet to be provided by our town administrator. Once again the public was dismissed – only to witness the smoke and mirrors, roadblocks, and an irresponsible waste of Council’s time (and legal resources) based on the self-serving interests of 3 council members. It’s time to protect the interests of the residents and taxpayers.

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  2. Al Pritchard

    So, should I be calling the town and asking what this all means, and why the town is asking me to pray?

    It also seems I’m not bringing anything to the table in this town, not even holding down a job. Now this has me worried. I would assume I would be notified individually by my company about any changes to my employment status. Not by the town I live in. I better call the town and find out what this is all about.


    I am not an elected official, nor do I play one on TV. I am however on the Highlands borough website committee. The information provided herin is not the official position of the Borough of Highlands NJ and is only based on my own experiences and thoughts. None of the above should be considered a substitute for you thinking for yourself, that will be handled by your own town leaders who will guide you in how to think and manage your own disclosures and endorsements.

    This disclosure complies with R-14-220

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    1. Admin Post author

      @al – definitely call the borough and ask if you are loosing your job, make sure you keep them on the phone for at least 3 hours. just keep insisting the “mayor said online” and there was no disclaimer so it must be official.

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  3. Claudette

    My mother was arrested 50 YEARS AGO during the Vietnam war defending the right to free speech . This violation of our constitutional rights sets us back over 50 years. Our lawyer and certain council members need to freshen up on their civics lessons, I know a course they can take at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public Affairs that may enlighten them and bring into the 21st century. Perhaps we can find funding for this valuable course????

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  4. duncan mcleod

    Apparently these people have never heard of something called the first amendment!!. The whole issue is to subvert and control free speech by king Nolan. Sad and shameless!! Also who gets to decide what an “official” statement is? If ya can’t stand free speech…. get off the damn council!!

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  5. Clam Girl

    Clearly a 1st amendment violation! Our Country was built on the right of free speech and open meetings. Is this what were fought and died for? This isn’t Russia. Please fellow Highlanders get out and vote for a change next time.

    And BTW why wasn’t John Schneider, a communications professional, asked to be on the Boro Website Committee??

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    1. Admin Post author

      @clamgirl – The web site committee was strictly volunteer, nobody asked anybody, you had to fill out a form at Borough Hall and ask to be on it. John probably just didn’t fill out the form. There were only 2 residents on it.

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  6. Sadie Marie

    Can someone explain how rf14-220 impedes upon our first amendment ? RF14-220 does not say you are not allowed to speak your mind on social media. The idea is if you have anything to do with the town as an official or an employee of the borough, you state that it is your personal opinion and not An official statement from the borough. Please read up on what your first amendment actually states, not what you think it means.

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    1. Admin Post author

      Sadie – It goes beyond an employee or elected official (although, not many of those people seem to include the proper proposed disclaimer), it interestingly also states “volunteer”, and doesn’t define what a volunteer is. Is it a Firefighter? Someone on the BID? A planning board member? Any resident that volunteered their time to the town once 10 years ago? It’s very vague.

      Some residents feel this is targeting them to either stop posting or making them targets by including disclaimers when they do and also if they don’t use the said disclaimer. This in itself violates someone’s first amendment rights of freedom of speech by the perception of censorship.

      Let’s just say, it doesn’t violate anything. Why bother to have it? And if there is a *need* why do the very elected officials that found it necessary can’t be bothered to include it on *their* posts? That doesn’t make sense to me.

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  7. barbara iannucci

    Sadie … Many municipalities have Social Media policies … but they apply to town owned sites, and the proper use of that site by officials and paid employees. The New Jersey League of Municipalities held many sessions on how a town deals with a town owned site. Highlands also has employee policies.

    The problem is that R14-220 applied to all public social media sites which are not even owned or under the jurisdiction of the town, and it applied to any sites ‘in the future’. Highlands has no grounds for declaring how or what words an individual has to type when they use social media – merely because they volunteer in the town.

    R14-220 being unenforceable is a joke in itself, and an embarrassment reflective of the focus of some of our officials, and it needs to be taken off our books.

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  8. John

    It does not impede on your right to free speech but it is an example of what our council spends their time and our money doing. It is a complete waste. This is just one example of the many futile projects brought forth by our inept leadership.

    Im sure this will hurt someone’s feelings and Ill be told how nice they are as people.

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  9. Sadie

    I do not disagree with the the fact that rf14-220 is very vague. I understand why in a way it is important that public figures state it is their opinion and not a reflection of the town. Perhaps it was rushed and should have taken more time to be clear about that ordinance.

    How someone perceives the ordinance doesn’t make it a violation of the first amendment. The first amendment is in black and white, an opinion on something doesn’t change that black and white fact. Thus my point, it does not violate our first amendment.

    I agree that the ordinance was passed it should be followed. Which would bring me to a question for Barbara. If you think mrs. Nolan should state it’s her opinion and follow the ordinance, would that not put you in the same boat, even on this site as it is a form of social media?
    Also, if so many people oppose it and have a misconception that or violates the first amendment rights, has their been any petition to change that? Has the group that oppose it vocalize it at council meetings?
    Change doesn’t start behind a computer screen.

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    1. NoLongerNew

      Sadie, I take anything that Doug Card, Becky Kane, Frank Nolan, Tara Ryan, and Kevin Redmond post as coming from a council member. They don’t get to pick and choose when they post as council members or citizens or as a member of a committee or as a volunteer fire fighter. They are council members 24/7, 365.

      Miss Kane likes to use “As Becky Kane” as her disclaimer. As Becky Kane WHAT? This resolution was her idea, yet she can’t even follow it. How are the rest of the volunteers supposed to know what they need to post?

      If you would come to the council meetings or watch the replay, you would know that this has been opposed and spoke about at every council meeting since it came into existence.

      It’s all smoke and mirrors. What we really should be asking is “Why the distraction of R-14-220? What is the council, more specifically those that voted yes, trying to hide?”

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  10. Claudette

    Sadie I have asked for R14-220 to be rescinded both in writing and at two council meetings. I was told NO, ” it’s not unconstitutional”. Three lawyers I consulted as well as a professor at Woodrow Wilson school of Public Affairs who teaches a course on the constitution feel,that the way r14-220 is written is indeed a violation of the First Amendment. Gannett Press and two tv stations attorneys I spoke to also feel it is a violation. Unfortunately three people on our council as well as our borough attorney don’t feel that all the above people are correct. I was even yelled at by the borough council attorney at the last council meeting concerning this. So in answer to your question has anyone opposed to R14-220 vocalized it at council meetings the answer is a resounding YES. It is an embarrassment to every intelligent person in Highlands that Frank Nolan, Rebecca Kane ,Kevin Redmond and Bruce Padula won’t listen to reasonable arguments to rescind something that both Frank Nolan and Rebecca Kane refuse to abide by . In addition it is appalling that the borough attorney Bruce Padula who drafted this resolution refuses to insist Frank Nolan and Rebecca Kane follow the resolution they are forcing on everyone else.

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  11. barbara iannucci

    Sadie, I never stated anything about Mrs. Nolan so I’m not sure why you asked?. I do not know about Mrs. Nolan’s other involvements in the town other than the Girl Scouts and HES events. If however she is a recognized ‘volunteer’ for anything associated with the town of Highlands then she would need to comply to the language of R14-220 – as well as any other resident, employee, or committee and sub-committee member. Last I checked the spouses of elected officials still retain their rights as public citizens, and they did not take the oath that elected officials take when entering office. I have always held that a marriage certificate alone is not a reason enough to state they cannot speak their opinion as individuals. R14-220 did not cross that line fortunately … too many soldiers (as well as those in the woman’s movement and even the Civil Rights movement) have died and fought hard for that freedom to exist and not be violated.

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  12. barbara iannucci

    Clam Girl – many people have expressed that to me. Sometimes I am tempted when I witness how the current mindset operates – and it is very disturbing to me as a member of the taxpaying public to not have any influence on the final decisions being made. The callous disregard and disrespect I witness by those ‘in charge’ scares me – especially when I witness the incompetence and self-serving interests that are controlling our ability to move forward.

    But since I’m married to Councilman Card I feel my running for Council would create even more anti-change attacks which we see and know are going on now. I prefer to remain in the background doing my due diligence and fact-finding to support those on Council and other appointed officials who are willing to focus on the real and critical issues. I. prefer to focus on how things get done outside of Highlands and bringing that information back.

    To be honest I think the most effective change would be in having a town administrator that is not a puppet to those elected, or to the PD, the FD and the HBP/ BIZ…. we need a qualified competent business,county & state astute, manager to move Highlands forward to earn us some much needed respect outside of Highlands…. someone whose goal is to protect the interests of the taxpayers and residents that pay for our operational costs … vs. the interests of those elected, or some savvy developer, or the civil servants, etc. that have been receiving the known (and unknown) benefits within our municipality.

    So Yes – I have thought about it …. But No, I have chosen not to run. I prefer to back those whom I believe will make the changes that Highlands needs..

    I know this is a long winded answer – but that’s only because I have thought hard on this.

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  13. Tomas K.

    Why is there no discussion about the obvious disrespect of Mr. Nolan and Ms Kane on the post above.

    ” Keep in mind most of these people bring anything to the table including a job or supporting their kids.”

    I noticed that Councilwomen Kane and Mr Matt Kane actually likes this characterization of Highlands citizens.

    This is both shocking and appalling! The arrogance to speak and agree with these statements only proves how completely out of touch and ignorant they really are. It’s insulting and I only hope people wake up and kick them to the curb….. Highlanders should expect and deserve better representation!

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    1. Admin Post author

      They are both entitled to their opinions. If they feel their some of their constituents are self promoters, clowns and just angry people who don’t take care of their kids. I support the fact they are allowed to feel that way. Is it smart to post such things online – probably not, but they are entitled to their opinions. But if they make a rule that says any opinions must be followed with a certain disclaimer, then damn it – use the damn disclaimer.

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  14. Tomas K.

    Yes they have the right to tell the truth of what they think about the people they serve. I hope people remember what their Mayor and Council person and family think of them. I will certainly remind them when election time comes around. This coming from a man who is foreclosure so how is he taking care of his family? Freeloading off others! Nasty people who think they are better and entitled.

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