As has already been noticed, Plymouth County Sheriff Joe McDonald’s bad joke at the GOP St. Patrick’s Day breakfast is causing him a lot of social media trouble. ThinkProgress picked up BMG’s post which brought Sheriff McDonald national attention. Then, people around the country who were offended by the joke discovered that they could post directly to his office’s Facebook page, and they started doing so. Here is an example (screenshot taken last night – click for larger image):
As quickly as those posts went up, someone (presumably in McDonald’s office) took them down. And now it appears that that same someone has completely disabled the ability of people outside the Sheriff’s office to post to the page. I guess Sheriff McDonald can dish it out, but he can’t take it.
BMGer chrismatth, who posted the original item calling attention to McDonald’s bad joke, also adds the fascinating observation that by removing these comments, McDonald might be violating the state public records law. The Treasurer’s office says the following about its social media pages (emphasis mine):
Please note, that Records Retention Law of the Commonwealth requires the Mass.Gov portal team to preserve records created or received by a state employee. Pursuant to this retention requirement comments posted or messages received via an official state agency page on a third-party web-site (such as an official agency profile on a social network) will be treated as state governmental records and may be permanently archived.
You know the old saying that the cover-up is usually worse than the crime, right? That might apply here. McDonald’s joke was surely in extremely poor taste, but, as BMGer loquaciousliberal accurately points out, it was far from original and has been made about many presidents and presidential candidates in the past. But if McDonald has violated the state public records law by deleting comments critical of his behavior on his Facebook page, well, that would be a no-no. I’ve got a call into the Secretary of State’s office on the question of how the public records law applies in this context, and will update when I have more information.