WESTFIELD, NJ — An investigation into a controversial tweet from the official twitter account of the government entity managing the downtown business district has found that the widely circulated social media posting was “fabricated,” the mayor said.
At Tuesday’s council meeting, Mayor Shelley Brindle cited a report from forensics investigators, which she said finds the Downtown Westfield Corporation’s Twitter account was not hacked, contrary to what was initially thought to be the case.
“They concluded that the tweet was never posted and was in fact fabricated and subsequently circulated on Facebook,” Brindle said. “Someone created a Photoshop of a tweet and put it on social media and pretended it had been sent.”
A request from TAPinto Westfield filed Wednesday under the state’s Open Public Records Act for the investigators' report is pending.
The alleged tweet, which was deleted (if it ever existed) since it was seen Oct. 25, was in reply to a tweet by Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick, R-Westfield, in which the Assembly minority leader noted Gov. Phil Murphy’s Democratic majority in both houses of the state legislature and urges fiscal restraint.
In the image the DWC account writes in reply: “Do you think we needed the same common sense approach when you were Gov Christie’s front man ? Just curious,” widely circulated screenshots of the alleged tweet show.
The tweet surfaced during the heart of an election for the state Assembly and hotly contested municipal elections in both Westfield and Cranford, where Kathleen Miller Prunty, the interim executive director of Downtown Westfield Corporation, was seeking a council seat. She is now Cranford's deputy mayor.
“The true cause of this issue was the deliberate circulation of disinformation intended to discredit not only Kathleen Miller Prunty, who was a candidate for council in Cranford, but the DWC as a whole — which is comprised of dedicated professionals whose contributions remain valuable to our town,” Brindle said Tuesday.
On Wednesday, Miller Prunty said that staff of the DWC requested the investigation.
“From the beginning, the DWC staff insisted on an investigation and cooperated fully with the attorneys and forensic examiners,” Prunty said in an email. “We are glad the findings were reported although it remains an unfortunate episode that hurt individuals, the Downtown Westfield Corporation and the Town.”
Bramnick told TAPinto Westfield he did not see the tweet directly, but he did receive a screenshot of it.
“Somebody sent me a photo of something that appeared to be from the DWC regarding me,” Bramnick said. “No, I didn’t see [it] directly.”
Following the departure of the DWC’s longtime executive director, Sherry Cronin, the DWC board made Miller Prunty its interim executive director for a six-month term starting in September. Her term ends next month as the DWC seeks a permanent executive director.
“Westfield is an outstanding community with wonderful businesses, volunteers and strong leadership,” Miller Prunty said. “It has been an honor to be part of the team these last few months.”
Email Matt Kadosh at firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter: @MattKadosh