Lawmakers’ decision to block constituents on social media costing taxpayers over $75,000

DENVER -- When you don't like someone or something on social media, what do you do? Perhaps you block them? It's only natural in this day in age of social media controversy.

Turns out politicians do it too -- and it is costing taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars.

That's because courts have ruled politicians cannot block constituents on social media, yet many Colorado officials have been caught doing so.

"Social media platforms are really the new town halls these days," said Sara Neel, an attorney with the Colorado ACLU.

Neel, along with the ACLU, recently sued State Sen. Ray Scott (R-Grand Junction) for blocking a constituent on his social media pages.

"Just as a politician couldn't kick somebody out of a town hall, they can't block somebody on a social media platform like Facebook or Twitter," Neel said.

The FOX31 Problem Solvers discovered taxpayers have paid for more than $75,000 in settlements over the last year as a result of lawmakers blocking constituents online.

CASE #1

Former Lafayette Mayor Christine Berg settled for $20,000 after being accused of blocking an activist.

CASE #2

Thornton Mayor Pro Tem Jan Kulmann settled for $30,000 after blocking a fracking activist on her social media page.

CASE #3

Colorado Senate President Leroy Garcia settled for $25,000 after blocking a constituent upset with his leadership.

"It's a very murky area," said Sage Naumann, communications director for the Colorado Senate Republicans.

Naumann says both parties are struggling to figure out politicians' roles on social media. Naumann emphasizes many senators may have blocked someone years ago and forgotten they did so.

Naumann, like many in Colorado politics, is hoping the court clears up the confusion.

"Our senators were not told what to do. There is no manual for this," Naumann said. "Officials on both sides of the aisle are trying to figure out what they can and cannot do on social media."

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