Whether you call them examples of free speech or divisive statements, Kinderhook Town Councilwoman Sally Hogan fundamentally crossed the line on her recent social media posts.
Hogan, on her public Facebook page, called for the state to ban the Excelsior Pass, which provides a free, fast and secure way to present digital proof of COVID-19 vaccination or negative test results, face masks and, to top it off, Democrats.
When her fellow council members questioned Hogan about the posts, she responded by asking if satire was no longer allowed. But there is good satire and bad satire. Good satire, in aesthetic form, holds individual vices, follies, abuses or shortcomings up to ridicule with the intent to inspire social reform. What is bad satire? Playing a weak hand and calling it “satire” doesn’t make it so.
But it can get you into trouble. The town board passed a resolution to formally condemn Hogan’s recent public statements, to make it clear they had no connection with the town board and accuse her of conduct “unbecoming of an elected official.”
The job of all elected town officials is to serve all of the people in a respectful and professional manner. Hogan was neither. Divisive statements about the COVID-19 epidemic as the death toll continues to rise, anti-COVID protocols that have already proved successful and people with different political affiliations (Hogan is a Republican) are, in our opinion, useless.
To supposedly clarify her actions further, Hogan told the board and about 50 members of the public attending Monday’s meeting that she knows and loves many Democrats, but she does not like what many of them stand for.
Furthermore, Hogan said she has no issues talking to anyone in person or online and then told the board she had a prepared statement to read. In that statement, Hogan leveled hand-me-down allegations against Kinderhook Town Supervisor Patsy Leader, who “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.” No elaboration or corroboration was offered. Finally, Hogan testily accused her fellow council members of leaving her out of town board decisions and the town information loop. Leader did not engage Hogan on her allegations.
The argument against Hogan’s statements is credible. As an elected official, she is held to a higher standard — one of public trust. People look to her for leadership, but in our estimation, she has failed. One Kinderhook resident said she raised a formal complaint against Hogan at a previous town board meeting, alleging Hogan deletes and erases comments from people who share points of view different from hers on her Facebook page. Hogan champions her right to free speech, it seems, as long as nobody else tries to exercise it.
The best we can say is that the town board did everything in its authority to hold Hogan accountable. Free speech is important. So is knowing when to hold your tongue.