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Stonington - First Selectman Ed Haberek announced Wednesday that he is making his personal Facebook page more private, and going forward, only his authorized "friends" will be able to access his personal posts.
In the announcement on his personal Facebook page, he said he will be filtering his list of more than 4,000 friends and excluding those he referred to as "haters."
Haberek also announced that he is including money in the town budget for an administrator of a town Facebook page, though there is no cost to create a Facebook page. It is unclear when the town page will be up and running. Haberek did not respond to a series of questions about the announcement.
Haberek's announcement came after both school board member Alisa Morrison and Selectwoman Glee McAnanly called upon the town to create an official Facebook page instead of Haberek using his personal page to post town news.
"He seems to be trying to find reasons to keep control of this page and who has access to certain news items. Now, if you are 'friends' with him, you can find out vital information about the town such as downed power lines and power outages, but only if he allows you to see those posts," Morrison said. "In addition, only his friends can post comments, ask questions or voice concerns on his page as well as post insults and inflammatory comments about others who can't respond. This does not appear to be the 'open and transparent' government that he keeps claiming he has instituted."
In his announcement, Haberek also referenced the current overhauling of the town website and said the work of posting town updates would fall to an existing town employee. He added that other towns have employees who post official town updates.
Referring to Haberek putting money in the budget, Morrison said Wednesday that he is "trying to making this a budget issue when it is more of an integrity issue."
It is unclear where residents will for the time being get information about storms and other town-related news, as Haberek has until now used his Facebook page to post frequent updates on Town Hall closings, plowing efforts, power outages, shelters, forecasts and parking bans. Little of that information was ever posted on the town's website.
Haberek did say that "official town information" would be tweeted from the handles @First Selectman, @StoningtonEOC and @StoningtonPD. Because tweets are limited to 141 characters, those posts would likely be shorter than those typically found on his Facebook page.
In order to access the town information on his page, Haberek's Facebook "friends" had to wade through myriad personal posts about his gym workouts, laundromat trips, inspirational quotes and photos from pages that he "likes." Some have names such as "Mommy has a Naughty Side," "Playboy Philippines" and "Victoria Secret Models."
In recent months, Haberek's Facebook page has also been a place for his supporters to lash out at his critics, including Morrison and McAnanly.
"Since Mr. Haberek is clearly on Facebook quite regularly, it does not seem to be that hard for him to simply post on an official page, official posts and on his personal page, personal posts. He seems to be looking for reasons to not create a town page. Again, I'm not sure why the town Facebook page has to be tied to the town website as he stated. It takes about 15 minutes to create a page," Morrison said.
McAnanly said Wednesday she would be willing to operate and monitor a group page with official Stonington information, much like the Ledyard-Gales Ferry page overseen by Ledyard Town Council Chairwoman Linda Davis.
Stonington Board of Finance Chairman John O'Brien said he had not yet been informed of the funding request for the Facebook page but said he opposes the use of Facebook because Haberek's page has been used to criticize town employees.