Bloom warns against emails, Facebook

Town Counsel Ira Bloom warned 17 members of various town boards and commissions to beware of posting opinions about pending town business on social media and in emails.

“In the old days we warned against writing letters to the editor. Now it’s social media,” Bloom told the commissioners, gathered May 21 at town hall in the opening segment of a Board of Selectmen meeting.

Such communications could be construed as showing prejudgment or prejudice to the issues being discussed, Bloom told the commissioners, and that would spell trouble with the Freedom of Information Act.

Emails are thin ice for commissioners, so much so that they would be highly limited in what they can say in response to inquiries from the press and public regarding pending issues, Bloom said. Copies must be kept under the sunshine laws, although voicemails are transitory and escape that requirement.

First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice has reported that Freedom of Information complaints in town are down substantially since her administration has made a significant effort to educate boards and commissions about Freedom of Information Act rules and facilitate compliance.

The FOIA training is to allow board and commission members to better understand the law and their responsibilities under the law. Part of the goal is to prevent inadvertent violations by a board or its membership.

Training sessions have been conducted periodically by Bloom.