SPRINGFIELD, MA — Another Springfield public safety employee is under fire for what is described as an insensitive Facebook post that is being investigated to determine if it violates the social media policy for city employees.
Mayor Domenic Sarno announced Friday that he has directed Fire Commissioner Bernard J. Calvi and the Personnel Office to investigate a city firefighter for “an inappropriate social media post.”
The incident is the latest example of city employees finding themselves in trouble for comments made on a private social media account. Within the last month, two city employees, a firefighter and a police detective, have either resigned or been fired as a direct result of social media posts that did not go over well.
The name of the firefighter is not being disclosed at this point, and neither are the comments of the post at the center of the storm.
William J. Baker, communications director for Sarno, said the matter is at its earliest stages, and at this point some information, including the name of the firefighter, needs to be confidential.
“It was just brought to our attention two hours ago,” Baker said Friday afternoon.
The name of the firefighter could be released later after a finding, he said.
Baker repeatedly said that Sarno was “livid” when he learned of the post Friday morning and immediately contacted Calvi.
“He was livid and disappointed,” Baker said.
In a statement, Sarno said, “My administration will stay consistent in dealing with these types of posts under our City’s Social Media Policy. These types of posts advocate for violence and whether it’s against peaceful protestors, police officers, public safety and/or elected officials, it is wrong and cannot be tolerated, nor condoned.”
Capt. Drew Piemonte, communications director for Calvi, said the commissioner has started an investigation, and at this point has no comment.
Baker would not say what the post in question said. He would only say it was insensitive, and directed hostility toward the many people taking part in demonstrations across the county in recent weeks. Baker said it was not directed specifically at the recent Black Lives Matter protests, but “at protesters in general.”
Baker’s wording recalled a similar controversy three years ago involving then-Springfield police officer Conrad Lariviere under his personal Facebook account.
In August 2017, Lariviere appeared to belittle people who were injured when someone intentionally drove a car through a crowd of counter-protesters at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Several people were injured and one woman was killed.
Lariviere was fired in November 2017 when then-Police Commissioner John Barbieri determined notoriety from Lariviere’s comments would interfere with his ability to do his job.
Weeks after Lavrivier’s original post, Sarno enacted a social media policy for city employees that warns against any off-hours social media conduct that would reflect badly on the city, the employee and the ability of the employee to function.
Penalties for violating the policy include “corrective counseling or disciplinary action up to and including termination, subject to protections under existing collective bargaining agreements.”
Weeks ago, a newly hired firefighter resigned after it came to light he made inappropriate comments on social media. The firefighter, 11 months on the job, was still a probationary employee and about one month from being tenured.
Last month, Police Commissioner Cheryl C. Clapprood fired Florissa Fuentes, a detective with the Special Victims Unit, when it was revealed that weeks earlier Fuentes had shared on her private Instagram account a post in support of Black Lives Matter. The post was a photo of Fuentes’ niece at a protest in Atlanta, holding a sign that encouraged people to “shoot back” at police.
Fuentes was hired less than a year earlier, and was still considered a probationary employee.
Baker said the firefighter at the center of the latest controversy is not a probationary employee and is tenured with the department.
Officials with the city firefighters’ union, International Association of Fire Fighters Local 648, could not be reached for comment.