Lovettsville Council Censures Consaul for Facebook Post That ‘Disparaged’ Town

The Lovettsville Town Council last week voted unanimously to censure Planning Commissioner Kris Consaul for a post she made to her personal Facebook page.

Consaul said she posted the image—in which a speech bubble was added to the bird from the town logo reading “Nazi Punks F— OFF!”—as the cover photo of her personal Facebook page the day after the Sept. 29 presidential debate, when President Donald Trump did not explicitly condemn white supremacy when asked if he would. The next day, some social media users, including Consaul, began publishing posts explicitly condemning white supremacy.

Her post featured an image of the town LOVE sign that was installed on the Town Square in June and uses the town seal as the “O” in LOVE.

The council censured Consaul “based upon her violations of the town code of conduct in appropriating to her private use the LOVE sign artwork in a way that disparaged the town, its policies and its officers, constituting malfeasance in office,” according to the motion read by Councilwoman Renee Edmonston. “The use of the image and profanities in a public social media post does not meet the professional expectations of an appointed member of the town government.”

Under the Town Council Standards of Conduct and Ethics, which the council updated in January, elected and appointed officials should “provide high quality service to the public … and carry out one’s responsibilities with integrity by conducting Town business in a responsible, conscientious, ethical and professional manner.”

Councilman Chris Hornbaker pointed out during last week’s meeting that the Town Council’s vote was to censure, not censor, Consaul—meaning it disapproved of Consaul’s post, but was not blocking her from posting it, or from future posts.

Consaul said she felt the censure was tied to an incident in September when she met with Town Planner John Merrithew to discuss a citation for violating the town’s sign ordinance, which defines flags as signs and allows residents to display only three on their properties. Consaul at the time had seven flags on her porch.

She said those signs were to show marginalized groups of people that “we see you”—a Black Lives Matter flag, a peace sign flag, a planet earth flag, a Human Rights Commission equal sign flag, an American Indian Movement flag, a rainbow flag and the Virginia flag.

Consaul said she had taken four of those seven flags down by Sept. 24—six days before her Facebook post.

She said town leaders may have thought that she was calling them “Nazi punks” and to “f— off” after the town required her to remove a majority of her flags. But, Consaul said, her post was related strictly to Trump’s participation in the presidential debate.

“I felt like all of it was very tongue in cheek,” she said.

Still, Consaul acknowledged she should not have used the town seal to get her point across.

“They could censure me for that,” she said of the Town Council’s vote to do so.

Mayor Nate Fontaine and Town Manager Rob Ritter met with Consaul earlier this week to discuss the Facebook post and its repercussions. Fontaine said that “was a good conversation.”

“I think we relayed the message from council,” he said.

Fontaine said that while everyone has the right to express their passion for the issues they believe in, it’s important for elected and appointed town officials to be cognizant of the posts they publish on social media—especially if they have influence in the town other than through their government roles.

Consaul ran against Fontaine for mayor in 2018. She was appointed to the Planning Commission by a 4-3 Town Council vote in 2019, with Councilmen Chris Hornbaker, David Steadman and Buchanan Smith voting against her appointment. Her term on the commission ends June 21, 2021.

pszabo@loudounnow.com

6 thoughts on “Lovettsville Council Censures Consaul for Facebook Post That ‘Disparaged’ Town

  • 2020-10-14 at 4:44 pm
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    Virtue signalling run amok. Kudos to the Council for taking action.

      • 2020-10-23 at 11:06 am
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        Kudos to the Mayor and Town Council. I was appalled that someone would deface a symbol that my tax dollars helped to pay for in the manner that Ms. Consaul chose. An elected/appointed town representative should be held accountable for such an act. In my opinion this act should have been considered malfeasance and she should have been removed from the Planning Commission.

  • 2020-10-14 at 7:52 pm
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    So glad Hornbaker is merely censuring and not censoring considering his documented tantrums on the town dais. If I’m not mistaken, the Council conduct code had to be updated due to his escapades during meetings.
    Certainly, the use of the Town logo was not appropriate for the personal post but if we’re going to start moderating personal social media posts then by all means, let’s start monitoring current Council members–especially those who post on the “Lovettsville 20180” pages. Comments often border on slander.

  • 2020-10-15 at 11:50 am
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    Between this ridiculous censure and harassing her for displaying banners in support of various causes and groups the local government is giving an appearance that they are trying to stifle her constitutionally enshrined right to free speech in order to grant safe harbor to white nationalism. As a reminder to Lovettsville government officials, America is a decidedly anti-Nazi country. My grandfather’s generation fought to defend American ideals against Nazi tyranny during World War 2. I urge Lovettsville government officials to take a good look at their intentions and their actions and to stay grounded in the truth that a community is only strong when it is inclusive. I invite The Town of Lovettsville to (1) issue a proclamation that clearly and specifically denounces white nationalism, (2) cease harassing your residents for exercising their constitutional rights and (3) to embody the spirit of your community by loving and respecting your neighbors.

  • 2020-10-15 at 12:14 pm
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    Virtue signalling is right, but not the way you implied. This was a signal to any member of a town commission or committee that they had better not use your free speech that far runs afoul of right-wing nutburger or you will pay a public price. It should be noted that a conservative was removed from the Oktoberfest committee a few months ago for similar offence, but it was done quietly and off the radar. Our sweet, non-partisan town is now a enclave run by near alt-right extremists.

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