KINDERHOOK — Social media posts from a Kinderhook councilwoman sparked a rare vote of condemnation from the town board Monday.
A post from Councilwoman Sally Hogan’s public Facebook page which called for the state to ban the Excelsior Pass, Masks and Democrats led a number of members of the public who were present at the meeting to speak out against Hogan’s social media barbs.
Hogan asked if satire was no longer allowed when questioned about her posts. Hogan raised the issue of free speech, and how it should be applied to her personal social media page.
“Our job is to serve the people of the town of Kinderhook, all people of the town of Kinderhook,” said fellow Councilwoman Deborah Johnson. “Regardless of their race, religion or political affiliation. We are called to serve all people in a reasonable, respectful and professional manner. In my opinion, divisive statements pointed against a particular group of citizens is simply inappropriate.”
Johnson called the statements made by Hogan “childish” and “embarrassing.” Johnson added she was tired of spending time discussing exchanges made between a town board member and members of the public.
“Councilwoman Hogan does not speak for me, she does not speak for the other members of the town board and most importantly she does not speak for the town of Kinderhook,” Johnson said.
The town board passed a motion made by Johnson to formally condemn the recent public statements made by Hogan, to make it clear they had no connection with the town board and Johnson’s motion called the statements “unbecoming of an elected official.”
The crowed of nearly 50 people erupted with applause after Johnson was finished speaking and all board members voted in favor of the motion except for Hogan.
Councilman Phil Bickerton was seated next to Hogan during the town board meeting. He turned to Hogan and told her his wife is a registered Democrat.
“I will not apologize because I have free speech,” Hogan said.
She went on to tell the board and the members of the public she knows and loves many Democrats, but she does not like what many of them stand for.
Bickerton continued to tell Hogan she is a councilmember and an elected official, and Hogan continued to say she has a right to free speech.
“The social media world is so divisive,” Bickerton said. “It’s easy to attack people on the computer but when you get face-to- face...”
Hogan said she has no issues talking to anyone in person or online and told the board she, too, had a prepared statement to read. She went on to discuss former employees.
“Accusations, these are accusations made by departed employees Dee Voss and Wayne Voss,” Hogan said. “Suggest and allege that Supervisor (Patsy) Leader has shown a disconcerting behavior lacking professionalism in the workplace involving workplace harassment, lack of knowledge for town financial information and basic financial principals, including withholding payments from services rendered.”
Hogan said she has been left out of town board decisions and town information.
Leader did not engage Hogan and her allegations and opted to move forward with the night’s agenda to the public comment portion of the meeting.
“Sally, I want to say you’re an elected official,” said Stephanie Gardinier of Niverville. “You are held at higher standards than most people here because you are an elected person. People look up to you because we elected you, and you are failing us if you do and say on your social media what you want to do because you say it’s freedom of speech.”
Gardinier told Hogan she was elected by all of the people, not just some of them, and suggested if she had ill feelings toward anyone, she should either talk to that person directly or keep those feelings to herself instead of airing it out in public.
“I know you have freedom of speech, but you also have the freedom not to speak,” Gardinier said.
Another member of the public to speak was Jill Mescia. She had previously raised a formal complaint against Hogan at a previous town board meeting. She said Hogan deletes and erases comments from people who share points of view different from hers on her Facebook page.
“What she wants curated on her public page is limited to not the people in this room, as far as I understand,” Mescia said. “I think it’s also very jarring and disturbing that she claims to say, well, those posts were only removed because someone called her racist. As someone who’s been involved in this situation personally, that’s simply not true.”
Mescia asked the town board what accountability and followup will there be for Hogan.
Kinderhook legal counsel Andrew B. Howard said lawsuits could be brought forward, but that it was not within the jurisdiction of the town board to do so.
“We did speak about this at a previous town board meeting,” Howard said. “And we analyzed the public officers and in terms of the jurisdiction of the town board to remove a member, they don’t have that authority. A town board member can be removed, and you’re right there have been suits in the past and those are brought in one of two ways: They are brought by an aggrieved party or they are brought by the district attorney.”
No one has asked for Hogan to resign, Mescia said. She called Hogan deleting comments from people who opposed what she is saying as censorship.