For Hagerstown officials, blonde joke on city's website no laughing matter
This screenshot of the City of Hagerstown's website from early Tuesday, Nov. 27, shows a link to a "Blonde Joke." The offending joke was later removed from the site. (Herald-Mail / November 27, 2012)
Mayor David Gysberts, who was sworn in on Monday night, said Tuesday morning he had not yet seen the joke, but that it would be inappropriate for any public official website.
“Obviously, anything like that is despicable,” Gysberts said.
“What else could I say?” the mayor said.
“We certainly apologize for anyone who saw it because it’s absolutely not in line with the city’s values at all. We are looking into it, still currently, and it will be handled appropriately from there,” said city spokeswoman Erin Wolfe.
The Herald-Mail, tipped to the content on the website, found the material through a weblink to the city website’s “Document Center,” within the “Public Works” folder. Three files were listed in the folder. In order they were: “Bulk Trash Pick Up form,” “Request for street tree maintenance,” and “Blonde Joke.”
A click on the “joke” link went to the five-paragraph downloadable joke.
Wolfe said the online Document Center was not a “published” or public site, and was intended to be accessed only by city employees.
Within an hour after The Herald-Mail contacted city officials to ask about the link Tuesday morning, the joke was no longer listed in the public works folder, but could be found by using the search box at www.hagerstownmd.org.
A search resulted in a match for a Word document entitled “Blonde Joke” that was last modified at 9:58 a.m. on April 13, 2012.
The joke had been removed from the website by 10:30 a.m. Tuesday.
Gysberts said he didn’t know if the joke was meant for public consumption, but said, “It’s never appropriate” and “it’s not an appropriate use of the government’s resources.”
“Of course, things like this going on, I want to know about,” Gysberts said. He added he wants to know if there’s any improvements the city can make to improve government.
Gysberts said he would look into what will be done about the matter and would talk to City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman about it.
The “joke” is about a blonde woman who gets a public works job painting lines on streets.
Public Works Director Eric Deike said he didn’t know the joke was on the website, had no idea how it got on the city website, and had no idea who posted the joke on the website.
“I’m not going to say a whole lot ’til I read it and see what’s going on,” Deike said Tuesday morning.
Deike said he has staff members who manage the website.
“It is something that I thank you for bringing to our attention,” Wolfe said.
Wolfe said city officials weren’t aware of the joke being on the website because “it wasn’t directly linked to a page. Not that it makes an excuse for it.”