Yesterday, November 2, 2019, a post appeared on the official Hazleton Police Facebook page displaying a “Letter to the Editor” written by Michael Reich of Drums in a local newspaper supporting the re-election of Mayor Jeff Cusat. Immediately below the post appeared the name of Hazleton Police Chief Jerry Speziale giving the appearance Speziale was re-posted the letter from the chief’s personal Facebook page.
The Chief, an appointee of the mayor, and not an elected official, has used his personal Facebook page to support Mayor Cusat’s campaign. The Chief operates more than one Facebook page, despite Facebook’s policy of not allowing multiple personal accounts. Chief Speziale has also voiced support for City Council candidate Lauren Sacco on one of his personal accounts.
After comments, both negative and positive, the post appears to have been removed from the official police Facebook page.
Mayor Cusat uses a Facebook page appearing to be an official page for the Mayor of Hazleton. The page displays the vanity identification @hazletoncity and lists its website as the official city website, http://www.hazletoncity.org. The Facebook page shows the city’s official telephone number (570) 459-4910. The page appears to mix standard content for residents with campaign content for the mayor’s re-election.
The Pennsylvania Chronicle reached out to the Mayor’s Facebook page to ask Cusat for comment. The Mayor’s page responded with a telephone number Chief Speziale answered. The chief denied having access to the mayor’s Facebook page and said he did not speak for the mayor even after it was pointed out the chief’s telephone number appeared as a response to the Facebook message as a contact number.
Asked about the police department supporting the mayor’s re-election campaign the chief responded, “No, that was just a letter to the editor like you would put on any page. Anybody can put anything they want on there. You can put anything you want on there as long as it’s legitimate. It’s a letter to the editor. Actually the guy who wrote that letter to the editor is an editor at the Times-Leader.”
The chief then injected, “This is off the record.” When the reporter told the chief the conversation is on the record he restated several times, “This is off the record” and ended the call unable to secure agreement keeping the conversation confidential.
Reached for comment, Cusat’s opponent Bob Yevek said only, “I have outworked him hard. I am running a good campaign. I worked 86% of the city. I am going to beat the chief and the mayor and all of them.”
Disclaimer: This story is written and paid for by reporter Ralph R Dewey Jr.
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