CLAREMONT — Amid calls for a city councilor to resign for his behavior on social media, the city is looking to update the rules for engagement for elected officials.
“Our Code of Conduct, adopted in 2003, does not contain guidelines for engagement on social media,” Mayor Charlene Lovett said. “This needs to be updated and efforts to do so are underway.”
The issue came to a head last week when residents objected to Ward III Councilor Jon Stone’s social media activity. Stone, who is serving his first term on the council, is accused of displaying racially biased, homophobic and sexist behavior in his posts.
Stone did not respond to requests for comment made through his official city council email, his listed telephone number or his Facebook account.
Stone, who is a partner in the Black Ops Arms gun store, was fired from the Claremont Police Department prior to March 2006, according to documents filed in the U.S. District Court in Concord. That detail is part of an evidence motion filed in a criminal drug case that Stone investigated as a Claremont police officer. The reason for the firing is not made clear in that court record.
According to David Parenteau, a law enforcement training specialist with the New Hampshire Police Standards and Training Council, Stone’s certification to be a police officer in New Hampshire is not valid, but he offered no further details. Parenteau said there are no records from the council’s dealings with Stone and his certification as a police officer in late 2005 and early 2006.
The training council has the authority to sanction officers and suspend or revoke their certification to work as police officers in New Hampshire.
According to records obtained through the 5th Circuit Court District Division in Claremont, Stone was subject to a domestic violence protection order, filed by a Claremont woman in September 2006. The order was withdrawn two weeks later. The exact details of the domestic violence case are unknown, as the record beyond the court docket has been destroyed, according to court officials.
The alleged victim in the domestic violence case had declined to speak about the matter.
Resident Erica Sweetser, who shared images of concerning posts from Stone’s Facebook account, wants the city council to consider how it can function with someone like Stone as a member.
“How can the entire city council manage to cooperate with one another if one of those members harbors such bias that could very well be represented in another council member?” Sweetser asked. “Should a gay, Muslim or female council member have to be subjected to such bias?”
The posts in question include jokes about date rape, African-American birth rates, Muslim hygiene practices and transgender people using public bathrooms.
This is not the first time Stone’s social media activity has raised concerns. Trish Killay claims Stone harassed her via social media, leaving her feeling threatened.
“He has made it clear that not only can he not be appropriate and effective in his role, but that he does not deserve to represent us,” Trish Killay told the council.
Trish Killay’s husband, Sam, is an atheist who voiced his concerns about the city having the annual nativity display and menorah at Broad Street Park during the holidays. The backlash included Stone joking on social media that Killay was transgender and that he is mentally ill. Stone also shared photos from Trish Killay’s Facebook page and published her place of employment.
Lovett said the Council isn’t going to step in to ask Stone to resign.
“Other than for a few specific charges as outlined in the city’s charter, the council does not have the authority to demand that a councilor step down,” she said. “Though members of the public have demanded the resignation of Councilor Stone, it is not something that the council can require.”