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Haberek mixes business and pleasure on his Facebook page

By Joe Wojtas

Publication: The Day

Published February 05. 2014 4:00AM   Updated February 05. 2014 12:12PM
Some say Stonington needs a separate page for town news

Stonington - When storms strike, residents wanting the most updated and complete information about Town Hall closings, plowing efforts, power outages, shelters, forecasts and parking bans go to First Selectman Ed Haberek's personal Facebook page, where he posts frequent updates.

On other days he posts information about other municipal issues such as hirings and resignations, economic reports and his daily activities as first selectman. The profile picture shows him at his desk in Town Hall and greeting Filipino dignitaries in the first-floor corridor with a sign behind him that reads "Town of Stonington Welcomes."

But in order to access the information, Haberek's
Facebook "friends" also have to wade through myriad personal posts about his gym workouts, laundromat trips, Montreal Canadiens scores, family activities, inspirational quotes and photos of topless and bikini-clad female bodybuilders and fitness models from pages that he "likes."

Groton and New London have official government Facebook pages; Stonington does not. In New London, Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio has an official mayoral Facebook page that contains only government information, as well as a separate personal Facebook page.

Stonington is updating its website, and the improvements should allow Haberek to post the same updates as he does on Facebook, according to the town's information technology manager, Roger Kizer. Currently, almost all of Haberek's Facebook updates are not on the website.

In recent months, Haberek's Facebook page has also been a place for his supporters to lash out at his critics.

In one recent post, the first selectman's mother, Patricia Haberek, told school board member Alisa Morrison "to get a life" and told another poster that Morrison "will get her's someday."

Patricia Haberek's comments came after Morrison questioned why Haberek had spent much of last Thursday's school board meeting texting on his phone, which she said was disrespectful to those at the meeting. Haberek removed the comment from his page, but his wife posted that he had been busy dealing with family bad news. Haberek's page, though, shows he posted updates on the Canadiens-Bruins hockey game during the two-hour meeting.

Morrison, who was a Democrat until she left the party in November, and Republican Selectwoman Glee McAnanly are calling for the town to establish an official Facebook page instead of relying on Haberek's personal page for the latest town news. Habarek is a Democrat. Editor's note: This corrects an earlier version of this paragraph.

Morrison wrote a letter to the Board of Selectmen this week asking for the creation of a municipal Facebook page and establishment of protocols for social media by town employees, both of which she said have been done in other municipalities.

The picture of Haberek in Town Hall would lead people to "assume that this is the official page of the town or at least the official page of the First Selectman," she wrote.

Morrison said that when people use his page to access critical information about storms, they are "assaulted with various posts regarding his workout regime, news on the Philippines, hockey scores, even photos of his infected toe prior to lancing at the podiatrist. If this is the face of the town, this is an embarrassment. The constant posts about 'working out' and 'doing laundry' are inappropriate for an official page," she wrote.

"It is embarrassing that someone who goes on Facebook to read about our town or news in a snow emergency, will instead see that the First Selectman likes pages such as 'Mommy has a Naughty Side,' 'Playboy Philippines' and 'Victoria Secret Models,' not to mention the countless pages of other models in bikinis, questionable body building sites and women weightlifters," Morrison added.

She pointed out that while most of Haberek's page is public, he can block posts and remove posts he does not like.

"Again, not appropriate for a town page," she wrote, adding he should also post a disclaimer on his page that it is a personal page and not the town page.

She said the change should also apply to Haberek's use of Twitter under @First Selectman, which she said people assume are official tweets from the first selectman's office.

Haberek did not respond this week to questions about his Facebook page.

McAnanly, who was defeated by Haberek in November, had said during the campaign that if elected first selectman, she would establish a town Facebook page.

"We need a town Facebook page. You have to look at how people get their information today. Facebook is how they get it," she said.

She added that while updating the town website is a great idea, "the community is telling us Facebook is what they want."

j.wojtas@theday.com

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