CHASKA, Minn. (WCCO) — A Facebook group aimed at pulling a southern suburb together is pulling it apart this election season.
The Real Life in Chaska page is run by a city council member up for re-election next month. When her co-administrator blocked her opponent from the community forum, it got plenty of attention from its Facebook followers.
Like many, Melissa Schoenberg would stay up-to-date on Chaska happenings on a popular Facebook page.
“There’s about 6,000 members in the group, so it’s a sizable number,” Schoenberg said. “It’s great when you want to ask for recommendations or just want to find out about local events as well.”
It wasn’t until she started researching her city council candidates that she realized a current council member, Paula Giesler, is co-administrator of Real Life in Chaska.
Schoenberg paid particular attention to a post congratulating a candidate in a different race, since the page rules state political posts aren’t allowed.
“If there is a no politics rule, that’s fine, but it should be enforced equally,” Schoenberg said.
Just as she started asking questions, Giesler’s opponent Jon Grau did, too.
After he spoke at a city council meeting in December, he says he was removed from the Facebook page the next day.
“The very next day, I was blocked,” Grau said.
Giesler says the timing isn’t correct.
Grau considers Giesler’s role a conflict of interest, concerned she’s controlling the message citizens see. His posts about curling and PGA events were taken down.
“I’m also a resident of Chaska and that site is set up to be a community for residents of Chaska, and I wasn’t posting anything different than she posts,” Grau said.
Geisler responded to the controversy.
“He’s after name recognition, that’s what he wants, and he’s getting it in a really obtuse way,” Geisler said.
Geisler says Grau was removed for violating page rules — commenting on old posts to bring them to the top to increase visibility. Grau denies that.
“As far as people saying I shouldn’t be on it, I just think that’s ridiculous,” Geisler said.
Grau says he’s moved on to knocking on more doors, opting for a more old-fashioned campaign away from Facebook.
“I’m not going to sit on the couch and cry about it,” Grau said. “If I want to represent people, I have to get out and know people, too.”
Attorneys told WCCO that elected officials are allowed to be administrators as long as the group is a private page on Facebook and not run by a government body. So, what Geisler is doing is protected under the law.