CLAREMONT — Residents are encouraging the Claremont City Council to respond to recent social media comments by Councilor Jon Stone, renewing a discussion from last year about drafting new conduct expectations for city officials.
Two residents, Sam Killay and Matt Mooshian, said they plan to raise grievances to the city council about Stone’s alleged activity on Facebook, which includes making non-factual claims to constituents about a council resolution and, most recently, posting a comment about the Black Lives Matters movement, Antifa and their supporters from his personal Facebook account.
The city council is already scheduled tonight to discuss whether to censure Stone for a Facebook post on May 28 in which he allegedly misled constituents with false facts about a recently approved mask-wearing resolution.
A censure is a rebuke of an official’s conduct, putting on public record that the governing body disapproves of the behavior. It does not enforce penalty upon the subject.
The council had approved a non-binding proclamation, by an 8-1 vote, that “strongly encourages” residents to wear face masks in public places to reduce transmission of the novel coronavirus. Despite the council’s repeated emphasis on the resolution being non-binding and voluntary, Stone then told constituents on his councilor Facebook page that the resolution made mask-wearing mandatory.
“I stand behind my position for voting against a city council resolution for mandating the wearing of face masks,” Stone wrote. “I advocated once again for voluntary compliance, but was outvoted by the other members of the council who continue with their ‘progressive’ agenda.”
Stone made his claims despite sharing an Eagle Times post on the same day that said the resolution “will be non-binding and carry no penalty for non-mask wearers.”
Killay, who raised this grievance to the council on June 10, said he still wants the council to inquire whether Stone deliberately tried to mislead constituents as opposed to not understanding the details.
“Whether Mr. Stone badly misunderstood the 50 minutes of council discussion or if he chose to deceive the voting public… is the crucial question here,” Killay wrote in a letter to the council. “The council should not let itself be distracted from finding out the answer.”
Mooshian said he plans to share his grievances about Stone’s social media use directly with the council at tonight’s meeting. In a prepared statement to the council, Mooshian points to Stone’s history of “harmful rhetoric” on social media and using the platform to target residents who hold different ideological values than him.
Mooshian also points to a recent Facebook post by Stone in which the councilor wrote: “[Expletive] BLM and Antifa and who supports them.”
Mooshian’s concern refers to two screenshots that began to circulate on Monday from a Facebook post by a Wisconsin man, Andy Stocklein. Stocklein’s original post — which he has since removed from Facebook — regards President Trump’s rally on Saturday in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where Stocklein made several unconfirmed claims, including that “BLM and Antifa terrorists” prevented 25,000 Trump supporters from attending the rally by “blocking entrances and attacking Trump supporters.”
A second screenshot shows Stone’s aforementioned response to Stocklein’s post.
While Mooshian said he recognizes Stone’s right to free speech, he also believes that the councilor’s conduct as an official reflects poorly upon Claremont as a community and it’s governing body.
”When we have people in positions of power continuing to use their platform to cause harm and sow discord, it does damage to our community,” Mooshian states. “ I ask you — what message does it send to our community when a sitting city councilor uses language that incites further violence? What message does it send to the people of color, specifically Black people, who are our neighbors and business owners in Claremont?”
Criticism over Stone’s use of social media dates back to an incident in January 2019, when Stone had shared photos and profile information from the Facebook pages of Killay and his wife, Trish Killay. Stone and some of his friends on Facebook made disparaging comments about the Killays as well as the LGBTQ+ movement, which the Killays strongly support.
Killay has drawn controversy in Claremont over his protest of the city’s nativity scene. Stone’s targeting of Killay followed Killay’s effort in late 2018 to have the city remove the display. Killay, who identifies as an atheist, contends that public money should not be used to store and display religious symbols in public space.
The council held a vote in February 2019 to censure Stone over the doxxing incident, but the council voted it down, 6-3.
Tonight’s censure discussion will arguably raise similar questions and obstacles as it did in 2019, in large part to the lack of guidelines in the city Code of Conduct in regard to how councilors conduct themselves in their personal affairs. The city Code of Conduct has not been updated since 2003 and includes no mention of social media policy. Councilors at the time considered a revision though expressed reservation about crafting a policy that might infringe upon a person’s First Amendment rights.
The Eagle Times attempted to contact Stone for comment but did not receive a reply.