Recently, the following was published by Jeffrey C. Billman as a statement of fact. It isn’t fact and I want to set the record straight.
‘(Eric) Braun, no longer on the planning commission, sometimes criticizes Cox on Twitter. Cox has forwarded a few of those tweets—nothing threatening, just links to INDY and News & Observer stories with commentary slamming Cox’s leadership—to the city attorney.’ – Jeffrey C. Billman
I’m a computer scientist. I have a MS and PhD in Computer Science. Thus, when I first ran for Raleigh City Council, it made sense to me to utilize social media to connect with people. One of the first things I did was to create a Facebook group to connect with people in District B which I am privileged to represent today on Council.
Over time the Facebook group has grown to more than 700 members. Although I had created the group and was proud of its success, I decided two years ago to turn the group over to others. I removed myself completely from any administration or oversight and today the group is run independently by a diverse group of individuals.
Most people who start or run a large Facebook group often establish guidelines for posts and comments. They do so to keep the group focused on its area of interest and to ensure that people are treated with respect. No name calling is probably on the most common of these types of guidelines but there are many others such as no advertising, selling, or promoting.
When people fail to follow these guidelines, Facebook has provided various tools to administrators including deleting offending posts or comments. Such a situation happened a few months ago in the District B group.
As sometimes happens when one’s comment is deleted, a person will cry foul and doing so is perfectly fine. Complaints can be directed to those running the group for resolution. Unfortunately, a few months ago, complaints were directed at me even though I have had no oversight of the group for two years.
One person to complain was former Planning Commission Chair, Eric Braun. On May 18th he emailed me complaining that a Facebook comment of another person, Travis Bailey, had been deleted:
‘Feel free to continually remove yourself from my Twitter list. I see that you and your supporters are also trying to stifle debate by removing comments of Travis Bailey from FB. Avoiding people you disagree with is not leadership. It shows you are weak and unable to defend your positions publicly in the face of informed and honest citizen engagement’
I want to be clear that I did not remove comments of Travis Bailey from FB. I was not involved in whatever transpired. Nor did I remove myself from any of Mr. Braun’s lists.
Because in my role as a City Council Member I take such accusations seriously, I replied to Mr. Braun and copied the City Attorney:
‘I have no control over your Twitter account and I did not remove comments of Travis Bailey from FB. You are free to tweet or post whatever you want but keep it truthful. For the record, I am copying the City Attorney and I am including the five tweets you posted 22 hours ago.’
My goal in copying the City Attorney was to ensure that she had complete information about Mr. Braun’s accusations. Mr. Braun is a well educated, well trained, and experienced attorney. In contrast, I am not an attorney. Whenever questions or comments concerning legal matters arise, I provide them to the City Attorney for her evaluation. I have done this for legal questions and comments on a wide range of issues. Every Councilor seeks expert advice. There is nothing unusual in doing so.
I have a long history of welcoming debate and engaging with people on the issues. I have tried hard to be respectful. There was and is nothing disrespectful about involving the City Attorney in these debates. Doing so helps to clarify points of law and helps to set the record straight.