Facebook Page Sparks Pre-Election Dispute
Officials say the 'Mahwah, NJ' Facebook page is not an official source of communication for the township
With just over four weeks until the election, a Facebook page is raising questions in Mahwah. At a town council meeting Thursday night, a resident questioned what the connection is between the township and the “Mahwah, NJ” Facebook page.
In April, Mayor Bill Laforet told Patch the page was launched as an official page for the township, and that it would be at least partially managed by Jade Gunver of Promin Social Media. The page was launched with a coloring contest, which offered the prize of being mayor for a day.
According to the Promin website, Gunver also handles social media for the “Team Laforet,” campaign.
At a meeting several weeks ago, resident Bob Lockwood asked who runs the Facebook page. Laforet responded that he did not know, and has no affiliation with it. On Thursday, Lockwood questioned the mayor’s response, pointing to the April article.
Laforet said that he is no longer associated with the page. “The township does not have a Facebook page,” he said.
According to Gunver, she launched the page in April, “on behalf of the mayor, and really on behalf of the people of Mahwah.” Gunver said she was not paid to manage the Facebook page.
“It was a volunteer thing, I did it pro bono,” she said.
Gunver said she gave up administrative rights to the page in mid-August to a group of residents.
“They are community-minded residents who have the time to volunteer and wanted to take it over,” she said. Gunver declined to identify the page’s new administrators, saying they wished to run it anonymously.
The Facebook page does have a disclaimer on its “About” section that reads, “This page is not affiliated with the Gov't of the Town of Mahwah and is not acting in any official capacity as a representative. We are simply fans of the great town of Mahwah, NJ.”
Lockwood said that disclaimer was added only after he raised a question about the page last month.
“This is nothing more than a political move,” Laforet said Friday morning. “This is a distraction from the real issues that our community faces, like taxes.”
Lockwood is secretary of the Mahwah Republican Club, which is endorsing Ed Sinclair for Mayor. Sinclair and Laforet are the only two candidates running for the position this November.
Lockwood denied his motivations for his comments and questions were political.
“My intent was to ask why residents were being told this was an official source of communication from the township if it isn’t,” Lockwood said in a phone interview.
According to township attorney Andrew Fede, the public dispute over the Facebook page should not carry any legal ramifications for the township. Officials “made it clear that municipal funds were not used to support it. And, if there was any confusion [about who runs the Facebook page], the disclaimer would take care of that,” he said.