The Commissar Vanishes

Government web sites are public records. They exist to help citizens, not promote executives. They should not be used to advance individual agendas.

Yet, frequently, the first act of a new administration is to wipe out evidence of the prior leadership. This is more than just changing the names on the “About Us” page. Articles, photos,videos, press releases and other evidence of earlier management is deleted from the web site, as if it had never been. It’s a farcical repeat of Soviet practices, of airbrushing out of photos those who had been purged – the Commissar Vanishes.

This is petty and insecure but I suspect is done at all levels of government, perhaps even down to dogcatcher. It’s the urge to minimize one’s predecessors and exalt your own position.

Removing all evidence of the previous administrator, director, division head or assistant branch chief seems like a really pointless exercise. A waste of taxpayer resources.

A futile one, too, because that redacted information is already out there, retrievable through sites like archive.org. Media relations professionals should know that nothing ever really goes away on the Internet. Deleting things from the web site does not change history.

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Profile Photo Pam Broviak

This happened with the change in administration at the last city where I worked. A new mayor was elected who had been an alderman. For some unknown reason he had been rude and mean to me for years so it was no surprise to me he would not reappoint me once he took over. Creating and maintaining the Website was my department’s responsibility so when he took over he immediately hired a company to come in and take the Web site completely down. We couldn’t believe it – to take the whole site down and put nothing back made it seem like it was more an act of spite than just a rebranding! Particularly because it stayed down for almost a month or two then he must have had people complaining because he finally put the exact same site back up except of course with his information in for the mayor and my information taken off my department.

It is sad because it was a total waste of tax money; anyone on staff could have gone in and easily edited the information without paying a company to delete the whole site then pay them again to put it back up almost exactly as it was.

It’s also sad because since it was put back up, almost a year ago, the site has not been updated and has old information. And because they did not review the whole site, my name is still on there in places he is not aware of.