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Hempstead Town updates social media policy to clarify postings

Town of Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen speaks during

Town of Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen speaks during the town board meeting on May 8 in Hempstead. Credit: Howard Schnapp

The Hempstead Town Board recently approved a new policy on posting information to the town website and social media channels that town Republicans called a victory for free speech, but Supervisor Laura Gillen criticized as “a blatant grab at power.”

Gillen, a Democrat, cast the sole vote against the measure, while Senior Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby, a Democrat, joined the five Republican council members to support the resolution.

The resolution states that elected town officials may post content relevant to town government on Hempstead’s website or Facebook, Twitter or other social media accounts without prior approval from another town official.

The measure sprang from an episode in June, when a news release from the office of Hempstead Tax Receiver Donald Clavin was removed from the town website. The release was titled: "Clavin Declares Victory as Nassau Assessor Reverses Plan to Halt Mailing Property Value Notices to Homeowners."

Clavin, a Republican, praised the new protocols in a news release that itself was posted to the town website on Tuesday, the same day the board approved the measure.

Town officials should “never be censored when it comes to serving our taxpayers,” Clavin wrote in the statement.

The new policy “protects freedom of speech within our government,” Clavin continued.

Gillen called the new policy "unnecessary," saying other town officials already had access to the town’s digital information platforms, and that the policy “allows for the potential posting of inaccurate, misleading or politically motivated content."

The new policy will permit elected officials to post content “that is reasonably related to a governmental function or community concern, as determined by the respective elected official,” per the resolution.

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