In the latest tiff between Warren Mayor Jim Fouts and the city’s treasurer, Fouts has accused her of hijacking his Facebook friends list to lodge an attack against him.
Treasurer Lorie Barnwell contends the reason for her friend requests, which include mutual friends of Fouts, was to increase her connections with Warren residents.
In a Facebook post Monday morning, Fouts said that several residents brought to his attention that Barnwell had “hacked” his friends list.
“Lorie W. Barnwell and her husband, Bill, are no friends or supporters of mine,” Fouts wrote. “I wanted you all to be aware that I did not authorize nor request her to do so. This is ‘UNPRECEDENTED’ that an elected official would ‘hack’ or ‘hijack’ another official’s private Facebook. I consider this an invasion of my privacy.”
Meanwhile, Barnwell said that she added people on Facebook who, as Warren residents, are constituents of hers.
“Calling this ‘hacking’ or an ‘invasion of privacy’ is extremely irresponsible,” Barnwell wrote. “The Mayor is falsely accusing me of a crime. Facebook is a public forum. All that is at issue is the Mayor feels threatened that I am connecting with my own constituents.”
Tension between Fouts and Barnwell – previously supporters of each other – was sparked after she criticized him over controversial audio recordings alleged to be of the mayor.
Fouts came under fire after recordings surfaced in the past few months that captured either Fouts or someone who sounds like him demeaning disabled people, African-Americans and older women.
Earlier this year, Barnwell’s husband, Bill Barnwell, accused Fouts of removing him from his appointment with the Warren Senior Housing Commission because he criticized the mayor.
On Monday, Fouts said he expects attacks from Barnwell and her husband and asks that those in his Facebook friends list ignore them.
“Bottom line is I do not engage in this type of behavior and I don’t expect another elected official to stoop this low either,” Fouts wrote.
The mayor received a few dozen replies to his Facebook page by Monday afternoon, many chiming in that they had received friends requests from Barnwell. Some had accepted the request, while others said they did not.
“This was done improperly,” wrote Sandy M. Smith. “If she wanted legitimate contacts, the right way would have been to ask Mayor Fouts if she could post something to his wall or have him post something requesting people contact her if they wanted to follow her on Facebook, not to just grab his contacts from his account and spam friend requests.”
By Monday afternoon, Barnwell had received several replies from commenters on her Facebook page, with some questioning the mayor’s use of the word hack.
Barnwell wrote in a Facebook post that she was confused by Fouts’ outrage.
“I am an elected official just as he is who wants to communicate with those I serve,” she wrote. “I have never posted anything negative about anyone on my page. My page is designed for resident connection and the happenings of my administration. There are many things my office has accomplished that residents have elected me to do. Have a wonderful day friends!”