Lackawanna County Sheriff Mark McAndrew implemented a new code of conduct for staff social media use, a month after a deputy incorrectly accused a fellow Dunmore resident of creating an inflammatory Facebook page and posting directions to his home on the website.
Mr. McAndrew would not say whether Paul Nardozzi’s conduct led to the new policy. The deputy and Dunmore borough councilman identified Leo Murray as the creator of the Facebook page “Dunmore Sucks,” leading other commenters to suggest paying Mr. Murray “a visit.” Mr. Murray is not associated with the page.
Mr. Murray told The Times-Tribune that Mr. Nardozzi’s posting led to one person threatening him at his home and a prowler sneaking about his property after dark.
Mr. McAndrew did not discipline Mr. Nardozzi because he was off-duty when he made the posting and the office had no social media policy — until this month. Mr. McAndrew implemented it as one of two new policies that appear to address recent off-duty misconduct.
“In no way, shape or form did Mark want to shut down and entirely prohibit the use of social media, but we have to be sensitive to the fact that we are in the law enforcement business,” solicitor Larry Moran said. “A mistaken post or something that is regrettable can go up and jeopardize a criminal investigation.”
Some highlights of the social media policy emphasize integrity, earning the public’s trust and not discrediting the operation. It prohibits racist and sexist comments, casually using social media while on the clock, broadcasting work-related information like photographs of suspects or evidence and anything that would disrupt the department.
The office is not trying to creep into the off-hours of its employees, but has to let them know they can be disciplined if their behavior crosses the line, Mr. Moran said.
“We’re putting everybody on notice that we have expectations of our deputies — common sense, decency and good behavior during all hours of every day,” he said.
The policy, which mirrors the Scranton Police Department’s, also reminds deputies that negative comments about the department’s operations “is not protected First Amendment speech, in accordance with established case law.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Moran said a second new policy on fraternization between deputies was not a response to an incident during which police arrested Crystal Matos for sneaking into the bedroom of her ex-boyfriend, fellow Deputy Jerome Passariello, and punching his new girlfriend in the face while she slept.
Ms. Matos pleaded guilty to simple assault in May and was sentenced to two years of probation.
The new policy notes the sheriff’s office “strongly discourages” romantic relationships between coworkers, but “acknowledges that sometimes friendships formed within the workplace may lead to romantic relations between coworkers.”
The policy’s stated goals are for deputies who date to keep their relationships professional at work, ensure relationships are voluntary, avoid conflicts of interest and misunderstandings, protect employees from sexual harassment, avoid the appearance of favoritism and keep the work atmosphere harmonious.
Deputies who date must notify human resources in writing of their relationships.
“We’re not discouraging or prohibiting deputies from engaging in private, intimate relationships,” Mr. Moran said. “That’s not our business. We don’t want to make it our affair. However, if it spills into the workplace and becomes a distraction, it could be grounds for discipline.”
Turique Patrick, president of the union representing deputies, said he has not seen the new fraternization policy yet and could not weigh in on the social media’s policy until the union’s attorney finished reviewing it.
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