Burr Ridge Mayor Mickey Straub’s use of social media has come into question, with concerns from at least one resident that his postings are predicting board action and could inhibit residents from coming forward on issues fearing embarrassment or criticism in a future post.
Resident Carolyn Grela raised concerns about Straub’s posts during public comments at this week’s Village Board meeting, which Straub was unable to attend.
She said her concerns were triggered by two recent posts by Straub announcing the appointment of a Plan Commission alternate when the appointment still needed board approval.
“I understand that, in this case, the vote may only be a formality, but is that right — to pre-announce results of something that requires an official vote?” Grela asked.
The appointment of Prashant Sheth as a Plan Commission alternate through June 24, 2016 was part of the board’s consent agenda, which received unanimous approval at the meeting.
Straub said Tuesday he posts nothing that is not 100 percent accurate and said Grela is playing “silly local politics” as her husband, former village Trustee Bob Grela, served as treasurer for the campaign of Straub’s opponent in the mayoral race, Bob Sodikoff.
“We have to stop majoring in minor stuff,” Straub said.
Straub noted his weekly update on village news, emailed to close to 500 families, garners him five to 10 compliments per week and that he has no intention of stopping. He said people like getting his three- to five-minute updates on the village.
“I am the only mayor in the state, possibly the country, doing a weekly video wrap-up,” Straub said. “I get a 40 to 45 percent open rate on those wrap-ups. The videos only have a 10 to 20 percent open rate, but people love getting the information and being informed. I couldn’t stop it now if I wanted to. It’s the most popular thing I do.”
Grela noted that in May, Straub took residents to task regarding a squabble over a backyard structure, a dispute that she said the mayor labeled as a “playground spat.”
“Advice about being neighborly was provided,” Grela said. “My yard was not involved, yet I found the subtle dig about a legitimate conflict to be somewhat insulting.”
Grela added that in June the mayor made a joking apology to readers of his posts on behalf of residents still complaining about the Chase bank deal that was already done.
“Maybe those residents took up too much meeting time, which jeopardized time-efficiency goals that are of importance to the mayor,” Grela said.
Straub said Tuesday he could not recall making the “playground spat” or Chase bank apology through social media avenues, but said it was possible.
“The mayor appears to be making a variety of comments, opinions and judgments about seemingly official Burr Ridge matters with detailed explanations on his point of view, through his social media venue,” Grela added. “There are many adjectives I have for what I think about conveyance of his opinion on village matters via social media rather than at the meetings. But, it basically sifts down to lack of decorum, especially in light of his leadership role.”
Straub said he tried to take the high road in appointing Bob Grela to the village’s Plan Commission despite his opposition to Straub in the mayoral race.
Carolyn Grela recommended village business be disseminated via current standard practices and that any modernization of that communication system be decided upon as a group.
Straub said getting board approval for sharing information with the public would be time-consuming.
“You have to get everybody to agree,” Straub said. “By the time it got out, it would be old news.”
Grela also suggested that Burr Ridge officials respond to and opine about village business through the meeting forum.
“If someone needs to explain a decision or assert an opinion ‘for the record,’ then make sure the information comes out in a public meeting so (his or her) comments are truly part of the official record.”
“Mayors are going to look pretty funny walking around with a muzzle on the rest of the week,” Straub responded when told of the suggestion. “That’s ridiculous.”
Grela further recommended that board members keep their social media strictly personal. She said from what she has read Straub has plenty of interesting activities about which he can inform readers.
Straub said his posts are his personal business as they are not paid for by the village.
“I am used to stuff like this,” he said,. “I am in month 6 (as mayor). No matter what the topic, my opponents are always going to look for reasons to criticize me no matter how noble the cause or how accurate the information is.”