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.