BELFAST, Maine — A few members of the public called for longtime City Councilor Mike Hurley to step down from his position on Tuesday night, citing their unhappiness with his tone on social media, including a recent post of him firing off illegal Roman candle fireworks in his yard on Inauguration Day.
But Hurley, 70, doesn’t plan to do that.
“I appreciate their comments and I listen to them carefully,” he said Thursday, noting that it was good to hear feedback from constituents. “I’m up for reelection in November. If I run again, I always welcome a good race. I serve the people of Belfast, and really those things are up to them. We usually resolve those things in elections.”
The councilor’s behavior was not on the agenda of this week’s council meeting, although officials debated a core values statement, which Mayor Eric Sanders said could be “a step” toward social media guidelines for city officials and employees.
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Still, Kelli Bucklin of Belfast told the council Hurley should resign because of his behavior, including his violation of the city’s fireworks ordinance.
“It’s time for our elected leaders to step up and lead by example. If Mr. Hurley cannot do that, he should step down,” she said. “If he’s unwilling to do so, I intend to go forward with a citizen’s initiative [to recall him].”
Barry Crawford, who lives in Monroe and said he’s been banned from the local Facebook page that Hurley administers, and said he feels that Hurley’s behavior on the Facebook page is “fracturing the community.” About 3,000 people follow the page where Hurley often engages with the audience on local issues and other topics.
“He’s almost like a dictator to me, and that’s not fair. We all love Belfast. Not just Michael,” Crawford said. “I think probably the healthiest thing for this community is to have him stop and get off Facebook.”
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But others did not agree, including Gef Flimlin of Belfast. For him, the attempt to have Hurley be removed from his elected position and his voluntary position as administrator of the Facebook group seemed troubling — especially on a night when councilors heard from many members of the public about why it was critical to protect the right to free speech.
“I find a real dichotomy here about freedom of speech,” he said.
There shouldn’t be one standard for elected officials and another for the general public.
“You’ve got to have freedom of speech all the way around,” he said.