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Lockport employee quits as mayor starts probe of racist Facebook post

A heavy equipment operator at the City of Lockport compost plant left his job last week after the mayor opened an investigation into a racist post on his Facebook page.

Mayor Anne E. McCaffrey provided The Buffalo News a screenshot of employee Michael J. Furlong's Facebook page, in which a post contained a racist epithet.

Furlong, 56, a Town of Lockport resident, had worked for the city for 33 years, according to a city employment list.

A City Hall source said Furlong last week opted to take retirement — for which he was eligible because of his seniority — after McCaffrey opened an investigation following public complaints about the post. Several people forwarded it to the mayor.

McCaffrey said the city doesn't have a social media policy, but it does have a code of ethics, which requires all employees "to treat the public with respect and in a professional manner."

"We have zero tolerance for this conduct," she said. "This Facebook post does not in any way represent the City of Lockport’s beliefs or mission."

The post has been deleted from Furlong's Facebook page. McCaffrey said she did not know in what context Furlong made the comment.

Furlong could not be reached Tuesday.

McCaffrey said she learned of the post on the morning of Sept. 25, and that turned out to be Furlong's last day at work.

Corporation Counsel John J. Ottaviano said the city learned the post appeared on Furlong's Facebook page during his work shift at the compost plant, which started at 7 a.m. that day. That had a legal consequence.

"His actions were not within the scope of his employment, what he was supposed to be doing," Ottaviano said. "Had he done this at home, on his own computer, we would have had to deal with his First Amendment rights."

Furlong is a member of the Rapids Volunteer Fire Company, which posted a message on Facebook on Sept. 26 saying a member, who was not named, had been placed on administrative suspension from the fire company because of an offensive social media post.

"The Rapids Vol. Fire Company does not condone the comment(s) made, our organization disavows any knowledge, and at all time strives to treat ALL people with dignity and respect," the fire company's news release said.

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