The city of Asheville has placed Lynn Fraser, a forensic technician employed by the Asheville Police Department, and Melissa Williams, the city’s social media specialist, on “non disciplinary paid investigative suspension.” On Facebook, Fraser called Occupy Asheville protesters emerged yesterday, and Williams added a “LMAO” (“laughing my ass off”) comment.
In the Facebook comments, Fraser also remarked that Occupy Asheville was a group that needed “a hug … around the neck… with a rope.” After responding to Fraser’s “dirtasses” remark with “LMAO,” Williams asked Fraser to count her blessings.
Late yesterday, APD Interim Chief Wade Wood, in an emailed statement, said the department took the comments “very seriously and [was] looking into the matter.” Williams offered her apologies, saying her comments had intended to highlight the absurdity of the phrase and encourage Fraser not to lose a sense of perspective; Williams emphasized that her comments were not meant to indicate agreement with the characterization of the protesters.
Earlier today, WSPA quoted Wood as saying Fraser was on paid leave. Late this afternoon, a city spokesperson confirmed both employees were suspended, with pay, while the incident is investigated.
Fraser was among APD personnel filming a Nov. 4 rally involving Occupy Asheville participants.
The city’s Internet usage policy, governing action by all staff, declares, “The city employee shall make no intentional use of Internet services in an illegal, malicious, or obscene manner, included but not limited to, using the services to access materials such as those advocating hate, pornography or violence when not directly related to official City business. All use of the Internet should be sensitive to the perceptions of the other City employees and the public.”