After 12 weeks of silence about sexual misconduct allegations, Bend state House candidate Nathan Boddie used Facebook and Twitter Wednesday to announce that he was still campaigning — then blocked Bend residents who made negative comments to his Facebook post, an apparent violation of City Council policy.
Punishment for violating council rules, including the social media policy, is limited to public reprimand, or censure — and one councilor plans to pursue that at the next meeting.
Boddie, a Bend city councilor and the Democratic candidate for the 54th state House seat, initially responded to allegations made July 6 that he groped a Bend woman several years ago by attacking his accuser’s credibility and saying she had substance abuse problems.
Since then, Boddie has not responded to media questions, ignored pleas from Bend residents and Democratic Party leaders to resign his council seat and drop out of the state House race and sat stone-faced through speeches about his behavior at City Council meetings.
But on Wednesday, Boddie said on his Facebook page that the sexual misconduct allegations are “untrue attacks,” “gutter politics” and “salacious stories from concocted sources (that) are only good for selling newspapers.”
“If it wasn’t clear, I want to let the voters in our community know that I haven’t given up or dropped out of the race,” he wrote. “Whatever candidates you decide to support this November, I hope you’ll keep our community’s interests in mind and vote @BoddieforBend.”
Amber Keyser, a novelist who supported Boddie early in his campaign, responded to the councilor’s post by saying his actions had ensured Republican candidate Cheri Helt would win the House seat. Boddie deleted the comment and blocked her from commenting again on the page. Keyser shared screenshots from Boddie’s Facebook page showing she had been blocked.
Keyser told The Bulletin she and other members of Bend’s progressive community had reached out privately to Boddie to ask him to step down, but he ignored them. Wednesday’s Facebook post was the first communication they’d had with him, and it was frustrating to be blocked from communicating, she said.
“Bend isn’t that big a town,” Keyser said. “We should be able to have contact with our representatives.”
Not only is it frustrating for residents to not be able to communicate with their city councilors through their social media pages, it appears to be a violation of city policy. The Bend City Council adopted a social media policy late last year that prohibits councilors from blocking constituents from social media pages they use to communicate. Public comments on these social media accounts are protected by the First Amendment, and the people making them cannot be denied access, the council decided.
The policy gets hazy when it comes to campaign pages, City Attorney Mary Winters said Wednesday. Councilors debated requiring separate campaign and office Facebook pages, but the city’s final policy allows councilors to use the same social media pages to share official updates and campaign announcements.
Boddie’s page has been active since his first campaign for City Council in 2014, and he’s continued to post about council actions while campaigning for the state House.
Council rules are more lenient when it comes to deleting comments on posts. Councilors can remove comments for containing profanity, advocating illegal activity, supporting or opposing current political campaigns, candidates or ballot measures or personally attacking, among other reasons.
City staff don’t monitor councilors’ conduct on social media, Winters said.
“We really leave it up to the council person to follow the council rules,” she said.
Councilors briefly discussed censuring Boddie earlier this summer for the reported groping incident and his response to it, but they learned their rules didn’t extend to behavior outside of the City Council.
Councilor Barb Campbell, who said near the end of the Sept. 19 council meeting that she wanted to discuss censure more thoroughly, said Wednesday she plans to bring it up again at the next council meeting and will also bring up Boddie’s apparent breaking of the city’s social media policy.
“I believe that when we are choosing to represent ourselves as city councilors in social media, I believe we should treat that communication more like official communication,” she said. “I don’t believe anyone should be blocked.”
— Reporter: 541-633-2160; email@example.com