Compared to the Weinergate scandal, Pennsylvania’s Vanessa Williams Twitter missive doesn’t seem like a fire-able offense — not by a long shot. The social media specialist at the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation was sent packing for what many consider to be an innocuous 140 characters tweeted on June 3.
“We start summer hours today. That means most of the staff leave at noon, many to hit the links. Do you observe summer hours? What do you do?”
At least, that’s what LVEDC President and CEO Phil Mitman thought — and the tweet was part of the reason that Williams was handed her severance papers over the weekend.
“I think this is an interesting lesson for all of us about the use of social media and about how chatty and how much information goes out there immediately and what the consequences are,” Mitman told The Morning Call.
I know what you’re thinking — the casual tweet hardly seems offensive. There’s no alcohol, nudity, or even an anti-boss sentiment involved. But the real reason the tweet was found to be “inappropriate” by LVEDC was because of the agency’s history of conflict with Northampton County over funding. The county’s current LVEDC liaison, Peg Ferraro, called the tweet a “faux pax” and told The Morning Call that such a tweet “sends all the wrong messages to the public and the people who fund LVEDC.”
LVEDC currently receives about $800,000 a year in proceeds from the regional hotel tax, as well as from annual allocations from Lehigh and Northampton counties.
So, in other words, LVEDC was worried that the public might not take too kindly to tax-funded employees taking time off to play golf. Fair enough. This is a bit like when banks get huge federal bail outs and then turn around and spend those bail outs on golden handshake-type severance packages.
Still, it seems like firing Williams may have been a bit drastic. After all, it’s not like it was a crotch-shot.