Lakeway mayor fined for posting online with pseudonym

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Lakeway Mayor Joe Bain was fined $500 for posting multiple comments on the Internet website Nextdoor.com using the pseudonym “John Smart,” according to a decision released by the Texas Ethics Commission Tuesday.

Commission officials found Bain in violation of election rules that requires transparency in political advertising and campaign communication.

He used the fake name to post four times, officials said.

 

From the Austin American-Statesman:

In April, just before the local election of three candidates running for two seats on the Lakeway City Council, Bain posted in the online forum Nextdoor.com under the pseudonym “John Smart,” suggesting that residents support incumbent candidates Ron Massa and Bridge Bertram and questioning the volunteer experience of newcomer candidate Tiffany McMillan.

“Vote for Bridge Bertram and Ron Massa – they actually volunteered for the City and worked hard to make it better, unlike the other candidate that hasn’t attended a council meeting for a long time nor has every [sic] done any work to try to improve the city – no committees, commissions or any other volunteer work,” one message attributed to John Smart read.

After mistakenly posting his mayoral signature onto one of John Smart’s posts, Bain owned up and apologized for his misrepresentation online. The revelation caused many residents to call for the mayor’s resignation.

It’s unclear how much influence “John Smart” had on the Lakeway election, but incumbents Bertram and Massa were re-elected by voters.

Bain did apologize when the ruse went public.

Also from the Statesman, in an April 2017 report:

“I created the John Smart account many months ago to communicate with Nextdoor users without a perceived bias,” Bain’s post on the website under his own name reads. “I now realize this was inappropriate and have deleted the account. There was never any intent to bully or cause confusion and all the information posted was accurate and factual. The screenshot that was posted with voting recommendations was deleted within minutes after I decided it was also not appropriate. Again, I apologize for my error in judgement.”

Bain was elected mayor in 2015. He previously served on Lakeway City Council.

Trent Seibert can be reached at [email protected] or 832-258-6119.

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Trent is an award-winning editor and reporter, who has previously worked The Denver Post, The (Nashville) Tennessean, and the San Diego Union-Tribune. Most recently, he was the investigative producer for Houston’s KTRK-TV ABC-13. He was also the editor and founder of Texas Watchdog, a ground-breaking news group that paved the way for this project. Trent is a teacher of journalism skills, and has shown hundreds of reporters and citizen-journalists how to use public records, databases and journalism tools to keep a watchful eye on their own local government.

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