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COLUMN

Happytown

Alan Grayson called Newt Gingrich fat. We drank. A federal judge tossed out the redistricting lawsuit. We drank. The ACLU challenged piss tests for the poor. We drank. And then we, along with the firefighters, took to Facebook to post inappropriate pictures. We don't remember any of it.

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The policy was a response to “complaints from citizens who had actually seen their pictures of accidents and stuff that their loved ones were involved in posted on an individual’s website,” according to David Hepker, a division manager of the county’s fire department. Hepker also invoked a sordid tale from Spalding County, Ga., in which a firefighter responding to a fatal car accident took a video of the gnarly wreckage with his cell phone – footage replete with up-close shots of the victim’s body – and shared it with some buddies at the station. The video soon went so viral in apparently sadist Central Georgia that it eventually reached the victim’s very pissed-off father. The prospect of such an incident happening in Orange County caused the fire department “significant concerns,” Hepker said. Finally, Hepker mentioned that two Orange County firemen had been caught utilizing photos of themselves in uniform “to lure, you know, young women for sexual purposes.”

We didn’t actually speak to Hepker about these cases, and when reached by phone, he wouldn’t speak about them – since PERC is still deliberating over the matter, neither the fire department nor the union will comment. But we did happen upon a transcript of the hearing, which, in addition to the tales quoted above, also contained plenty of gripes about the policy. “The members are afraid to even discuss Orange County or the working conditions,” testified Chris Sherburne, Local 2057’s president.

Although PERC has not yet reached a decision, on Aug. 5 PERC hearing officer William Salmon issued a recommendation to the commission, the verdict of which lands mostly in the union’s favor: Orange County should “cease and desist from … interfering with, restraining or coercing public employees of any rights guaranteed them,” according to Salmon. A decision by PERC brass is expected within a couple weeks – keep an eye on Bloggytown for the final verdict. And until then, you can nibble on this nugget of wisdom from Orange County Fire Department Lieutenant Robert Wells: “I try not to say anything derogatory on [Facebook], because … as I try to teach my kids, what you say is out there forever.”

2011.01.24 -- OC Fire Dept Social Media Policy

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