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Union Facebook page is not official, despite appearance

By Christine Simmonds | Dec 09, 2019
Source: File photo Union Town Manager Jay Feyler

Union — A Facebook page for the Town of Union appeared to officially represent the town, but was actually an unofficial and privately run page operated by the town manager.

Town Manager Jay Feyler said he removed the Facebook page Monday afternoon after the initial version of this story was published on VillageSoup.

The Facebook page was named, “Town of Union Maine,” with the address as The website for Union included a link to this Facebook page with a tag reading, “connect with us on Facebook.”

As of Friday, Dec. 6, the page listed the Union Town Office address and phone number, and included a link to the website for the Town of Union. Some changes were made to the page Monday, Dec. 9. The profile picture for the page was the official seal of Union.

However, the Town of Union Facebook page described itself as a “privately owned page” and a post in mid-November reminded followers it is, “not a town owned Facebook page.”

Feyler said he alone ran the Facebook page and posted on it. Feyler stated that he had tried to change the page category, but said, “Facebook changes it to a government organization every time I attempt to change it.”

The same November post stated that comments “are not answered or even posted” due to the private nature of the page. Some comments on posts made by this page were posted though, and some comments were not. Many posts listed three or four comments, with only one visible. This indicated that some comments, but not all, were deleted.

Feyler said that he has set the page so that, “the majority of comments are hidden by banning most words, occasionally a couple of things get posted like ‘good job’ ‘thank you’ etc.”

Feyler also said he wanted people to share the page’s posts on their own Facebook pages, and express their views there. He stated that while “there are some that want to use this site to post their personal views... they can share it and post to their hearts delight and not use our followers to exploit their messages.”

Many cities and towns in Maine have official Facebook pages. The City of Rockland has an official page. This page lists the contact information and hours of operation for Rockland City Hall. It is categorized as a Government Organization, and lists the website for the City of Rockland. The website for Rockland also includes a link to this Facebook page.

Rockport also has an official Facebook page. The Town of Rockport website has a link to this Facebook page, and the page lists the contact information for the Rockport Town Office. The email address listed for the page is that of Diane Hamilton, Executive Assistant and GA Administrator for Rockport.

Former Maine Gov. Paul LePage, in office from 2011 to 2019, experienced legal trouble stemming from a Facebook page similar to the one for the Town of Union. The American Civil Liberties Union of Maine brought a lawsuit against LePage in 2017 based on the First Amendment. The suit alleged that the Facebook page was censoring comments and blocking people from posting on the page entirely.

LePage settled the lawsuit in December of 2018, and the page was prohibited from blocking any more constituents for the remainder of his time in office. Despite the settlement, LePage’s spokeswoman Julie Rabinowitz said that LePage maintained the Facebook page was “not an official government page” run by anyone on his staff.

Comments made in the past by LePage, which were referenced by the ACLU in their lawsuit, suggested that he used that particular page to spread his message. His state website also included a link to that unofficial Facebook page until the lawsuit was brought against him.

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Comments (7)
Posted by: Gregory S Grotton | Dec 10, 2019 19:20

...but was another way to inform/keep citizens up to date on happenings in town and allowing citizens to share with others...

Posted by: Jay Feyler | Dec 10, 2019 11:02

Debra, our intent was to have NO comments good or bad, not to pick and choose as you imply.  It will be updated so absolutely no comments will go through, which was the original intent.

Posted by: Ron Pendleton | Dec 10, 2019 07:43

Define "official" page. Unless a Facebook page name has a blue checkmark next to their name, it's not a verified entity. None of the local town FB pages are verified as real with the checkmark, so there's that...

Posted by: Jay Feyler | Dec 10, 2019 07:16

Pam, we will be back as it is an important page for residents.  It will either become an "official page" or we will remove all content that would make it appear it is an "official " page.   It is my understanding we are able to still prevent all postings/comments so the content can just stay informative and not political.  Stay tuned

Posted by: Debra Damon | Dec 10, 2019 07:08

Sounds like Jay only wanted the "Good" comments to show and any negative ones he would place "Filters" so that they were not seen. For a Town Manager he should have known that what he was doing was wrong and the board that backs him should have seen it wasn't right. Every town has it's ups and downs, so all comments should have been welcomed whether the Town Manager wanted to see them or not. Holding an official seat in the town, you would think he would have done it probably instead of the way he did it. Something to look at for the people who live in Union. I think it's great for any town to have a page on Facebook, showing the hours opened, how to look at tax bills, see who is on the board, numbers for people to call when they need information, a posting where you can see the notes from the Town Meetings, Events that might be going on. It looks negative because Jay only wanted the good posts to be seen, maybe about himself or other board members. Facebook is a good way to tell about your town and the beauty of it.


Posted by: Pam Gushee | Dec 10, 2019 06:18

I loved the page, it really was informative. With the humor and spirit of the the great Town of Union.

Posted by: Jay Feyler | Dec 09, 2019 15:21

For the record, I do not block anyone.  I use word filters to stop comments as our audience has stated that they want information and not all the trolls and comments.   Apparently someone who can't get their word out wants to use the page to get their own information out.

I created the page for one reason, to get information out to the citizens in a timely manner and hopefully with a little humor. Unlike LePage the page is not used for political purposes, even the Board of Selectmen were not allowed to use it for political issues, only for information.

The page will be removed and the only people who will suffer are the citizens of Union and getting timely information, and of course the people who wanted to use it for their political purposes.


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