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Philadelphia clamps down on firefighters' tweets

Fire union claims guidelines are in response to crews' criticism of Mayor Michael Nutter after he decided to appeal latest arbitration contract award

By FireRescue1 Staff

PHILADELPHIA — Philadelphia is cracking down on the use of Facebook and Twitter by firefighters.

A fire union claims the guidelines are in response to crews' criticism of Mayor Michael Nutter after he decided to appeal the latest arbitration contract award.

A three-page set of social media guidelines for the department was issued by Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers on Wednesday. Included is an explicit prohibition on posting anything that may bring "a member's or the department's reputation into question," according to CBS Philly

"This is the mayor trying to quash any kind of negative criticism about him — the way he's running the fire department, the way he’s running the city," Union Chief Bill Gault said. Gault said the union is exploring a legal challenge as the restrictions govern off-duty activities, which infringe on freedom of speech.

"What they do in their personal time with their personal emails and Facebook and Twitters and whatever is completely none of anyone's business," he told the station.

"Firefighters and medics are still citizens. And they're allowed to have an opinion. I see that exactly as an abridgment of constitutional rights."

Everett Gillison, the mayor's chief of staff, told CBS Philly that the mayor last spring issued a social media code of conduct for all city workers. He said departmental heads are encouraged to use social media — quote — "in a way that best benefits the public."

However, he did not refer to the this week's memorandum from Commissioner Ayers.

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