The Oyster Bay town clerk called Friday on Supervisor Joseph Saladino to stop deleting comments and blocking users on his Facebook page and said he will urge the town board to pass legislation to ban the practice if Saladino doesn't comply.
James Altadonna Jr., who is running on the Democratic line for supervisor, joined residents and other candidates on the Democratic slate at a news conference a day after media reports that the New York Civil Liberties Union issued a letter deeming the behavior "unlawful censorship" and a violation of the First Amendment.
Altadonna said suppressing dissent is damaging for democracy.
“You have to have people be heard,” Altadonna said. “By just saying it’s my way or the highway, it doesn’t solve the problem.”
Saladino said Friday that Altadonna "violated ethics code by hosting a political press conference on town property and should comply with our laws before attempting to propose new ones."
Altadonna said the news conference was not on town property, as it was held near a gazebo across from Town Hall.
“Once again he refuses to address the issue," Altadonna said.
Brian Nevin, a town spokesman, said Thursday that comments are not deleted from the page, and when asked about another resident who claimed her posts were removed said she “either deleted her own comment or is lying to sensationalize a story two months before Election Day.”
Karen Higgins, 55, of Massapequa Park, said at the news conference that some of her comments had been deleted from Saladino's Facebook page and that last year she was blocked. Higgins, an attorney, said she considered bringing a lawsuit against Saladino but did not after she was unblocked from the page.
Susan Naftol of Plainview said several of her comments have also been deleted. She said she began taking screenshots of her comments as proof because her posts were being removed so frequently.
Those photos were presented at the news conference.
“This is very disheartening,” Naftol said. “I’ve never posted anything rude on his wall, but no matter what I post, it’s always deleted.”
Naftol said Friday that she objects to being called untruthful.
“You can call me late to dinner. You cannot call me a liar,” Naftol said.