Pennsauken Township needs to enforce a social media policy for officials, employees and board members

We’ve seen Pennsauken Township officials, employees and board members speaking out quite a bit recently on social media about the upcoming election.  It’s no secret that we live in a partisan town.   The Democratic party and their handpicked and groomed successors have run things for over 30-years.  But have they forgotten that they serve the residents of Pennsauken and not the Democratic party?  

One of the first heated exchanges we witnessed on social media was on the Positively Pennsauken Facebook page and involved Pennsauken Deputy Mayor Betsy McBride.  That exchange seemed to open the flood gates of Pennsauken officials, employees and board members speaking out on social media in support of the Democratic Party and Democratic candidates for Pennsauken Township Committee.  Unfortunately most of these exchanges have not been positive.

Then yesterday a member of the Pennsauken Environmental Commission, apparently speaking in his official capacity as an Environmental Commissioner, responded to a picture posted on Facebook of the two Republican candidates for Pennsauken Township Committee with Paul Dilks, Republican Candidate for the First Congressional District of New Jersey for the U.S. House of Representatives (his grammar not mine),

“Oh I know that guy on the right, that’s Paul Dilks. He went to the pennsauken environmental commission table at the harvestfest and proceeded to read our literature about the “dirty dozen” of course our first recycling no no on the dirty dozen is plastic bags. Paul Dilks saw this and proceeded to belligerently yell at me about how he feels that plastic bags should not be banned. And how paper bags leak, and how us “environmentalists “ are causing a black market for plastic.”

After it was brought to this Pennsauken Environmental Commissioner’s attention that Paul Dilks was not in attendance at the Harvest Festival due to other commitments in the District the Pennsauken Environmental Commissioner continued to hold his ground and responded in part (his grammar not mine),

“He was there. XXXXX another commissioner was at the table with me as well and even said hey Paul to him. He was in a polo and shorts. And XXXXX witnessed the whole thing. He said don’t worry that’s just Paul being Paul And Dilks words were paper leaks, how am I expected to use paper bags, and you environmentalists are making a black market for plastic. He prob thought over good and hard what he said was absolutely uncalled for. But if he claims he wasn’t there what can I say 🤷🏻‍♂️ I’m not asking upon what he said or what you call “dirty politics”. I’m asking as a commissioner, of the Pennsauken Environmental Commission”

Eventually Paul Dilks himself replied ” I can assure you, I was not there. I was in Haddon Heights, Washington Township, and Woodbury. Not sure who you spoke with. I was not in Pennsauken.”

Even the other Environmental Commissioner who the original poster claimed could back him up chimed in and responded (his grammar not mine) “Fyi I want to clarify I only hear from XXXXX that Paul was at the table trashtalking about plastic bag. I am wasn’t there when they have this conversation until i came back to my table when XXXXX told me this whole drama thing. I am not sure if Paul did came to harvest event or not.”

To which the original poster responded “Ok guys it’s all made up have a nice night. You guys got me”  I assume this was a sarcastic response but was equally accurate.

Since this issue was brought up Paul Dilks was asked to comment to which he replied “I do believe we over utilize them. We need to be more responsible. Would love to see paper bags make a comeback with handles that are recyclable.”

Let me stop and clarify that the Environmental Commissioner who made the original comment is active in the local Democratic Party and is one of the Internet trolls I mentioned previously.   Despite his claims otherwise his comments appear motivated by his desire to entrap the Republican candidates on an environmental issue.  Clearly his efforts failed.

This entire exchange was ridiculous and even more appalling that he made these politically motivated comments in his official capacity at one point stating “I’m asking as a commissioner, of the Pennsauken Environmental Commission”.

All of this brings me back to my original point. Pennsauken needs to enforce a social media policy.  It is outrageous that our elected officials, paid township leaders, township employees and board members are acting in such an irresponsible manner on social media.  Where is professional and responsible government in Pennsauken?

Without a clear (and enforced) social media policy in place Pennsauken Township risks being embarrassed by what is posted on social media (as we’ve seen) and could even face legal issues.  In a 2017 Forbes Magazine article Todd Richardson of employee engagement firm Emplify said “The lines between personal and professional have become increasingly blurred. How one represents themselves on a “personal” social media account can often bleed over to their “professional” interests. I make it a point to remind employees that how they portray or express themselves on social media can often result in negative professional consequences.”  In the same article Sarah Bettencourt of PointClickCare said “Remember that you are an ambassador for your organization, so present your thoughts/views in a professional manner.”

In a 2011 article in Entrepreneur Magazine Chris Boudreaux, Senior Vice President at New York based social media consulting firm Converseon said “A social media policy takes the guesswork out of what is appropriate for employees to post about your company to their social networks. As a general rule, they shouldn’t write anything they wouldn’t want plastered on the front page of their local newspaper”

According to the web site LawGives one of the important elements of a social media policy is “When commenting on a business function online, the employee should include a disclaimer stating that the views expressed are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of x company.”  Pennsauken Board of Education members are trained to include this disclaimer in social media posts and we see them do so all of the time.  Why are Pennsauken Township elected officials, leaders, employees and board members not trained and instructed to do the same?

In private industry most companies have comprehensive and enforced social media policies to protect their organizations and keep the lines of professional responsibility drawn.  Pennsauken Township government does not appear to make social media engagement or the behavior of those representing the township a priority.

I call upon Pennsauken Township Committee to take the social media behavior of those who lead, work for and represent the township seriously and not only develop and enforce a comprehensive social media policy but train and ensure that every elected official, township leader, township employee and committee member understand responsible behavior on social media.  Pennsauken residents demand and deserve that those in power represent the residents of Pennsauken not their political party.