NEWINGTON - The town is examining how the online behavior of its employees and elected officials can be regulated as one individual faces scrutiny for his Facebook posts.
The first hour of the last Town Council meeting was dedicated to the concerns of local residents, who presented 18 letters to be read aloud regarding a recent incident.
Literal fingers were pointed at Scott Greczkowski, a member of the town’s Economic Development Commission and administrator of popular Facebook page “What’s Happening in Newington.”
Meanwhile, a committee has been working on drafting social media guidelines for those who are employed by the town or serve in some capacity on a commission or board. Since participation in sites like Facebook has increased in recent years, residents have called the professionalism of several people into question after they made controversial posts.
Town Attorney Ben Ancona - who previously defended his own social media behavior - warned those working on this new policy that they could be violating the freedom of speech protections of the First Amendment. Therefore, the guidelines will likely take the form of a suggested code of conduct rather than a mandated policy.
Greczkowski removed a post to the “What’s Happening” page that advertised a Youth Roundtable being hosted by Gary Turco, the Democratic candidate for state representative in the 27th district. The poster was Newington High School Student Council President Matthew Plourd, a volunteer with Turco’s campaign. When he called upon Greczkowski for an explanation, he told the 16-year-old to “f--- off” and removed his access to the page.
In their packet of letters to the Town Council, those who saw or heard about this interaction voiced their horror, many calling for Greczkowski’s removal from the EDC.
William Lichota accused him of using the site for personal attacks, spreading rumors and advancing his own agenda.
“Scott’s pattern of behavior on his social media page has occurred too many times to far too many Newington residents for this type of behavior to be accepted from a person representing Newington,” Lichota went on to say.
Elizabeth Savluk wrote that freedom of speech is not a proper argument for Greczkowski to take.
“My husband and two sons fight for him to have that freedom,” she said. “For him to mock that freedom or degrade Matthew or anyone else that stands up for their beliefs is cowardly and tarnishes Newington as a community.”
Jessica Baez wrote in her letter, “…slandering a young man for having an opinion which is different than your own is pretty disgraceful, especially when coming from an adult and town representative. Shouldn’t you remain impartial and professional?”
Others spoke as anti-bullying advocates, sharing their own experiences and basically calling Greczkowski a bully.
One of them was Tina Knowlton, who told the council her 15-year-old daughter faced cyber attacks for her sexuality and gender identification.
“In this day and age,” Knowlton wrote, “with the ever-changing technology that thrusts our daily lives into the spotlight, it becomes increasingly important to protect the safety of our most vulnerable from people who seem to think that there are no consequences for their actions.”
Plourd also defended his actions publicly, going on to write on another Facebook page, “The young people of Newington deserve to be heard, and whether Mr. Greczkowski is supportive of that or not, it will not stop us from speaking out and amplifying our voices.”
Although councilors had a difficult time reading the emotional accounts of letter-writers, they agreed not much could be done about the incident.
“None of us condone this behavior,” James Marocchini said. “I wish there was something we could do to resolve this. Hopefully he will see his wrongdoing and take it from there.”
Beth DelBuono pointed out that there is a fine line between bullying and aggressive behavior.
“We have to be careful,” she said. “That term is sometimes overused in our society.”
DelBuono went on to suggest that the bylaws being drafted on social media use include a statement about what is considered inappropriate behavior.
Greczkowski did not return a call for comment before the Town Crier went to print this week.
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at 860-801-5097 or firstname.lastname@example.org.