On Jan. 17, the YouTube group Accountability For All posted their visit to Waterville City Hall. Accountability For All is an online group that investigates First Amendment violations in municipal governments across the country. The channel currently has an audience of 114,000 subscribers.
Their Waterville video is titled “Official Tries to Fight and Gets Punked! 1st Amendment Audit!” and has reached 40,000 views since its publishing. The two hosts Joshua Abrams and Leroy Truth spent just over 30 minutes in Waterville city offices asking public employees for comments on Waterville Mayor Jay Coelho’s professionalism.
When describing their goals, Truth explains they ask, “How are public officials acting? Are they transparent? Are they corrupt? Are they transparent to the people? Are they representing the people properly? Do they act like emperors and kings and do TikTok dances?”
The latter question addresses the main reasons for the two YouTuber’s visit to Waterville on their Maine tour. Josh and Leroy alleged that the mayor’s TikTok presence is unprofessional and in some cases, a bad example to set. They also become upset because the Mayor has an oil painting of himself in his office which depicts him sitting on a throne with a fur jacket. They suggest this depicts the mayor as an “overlord.”
The mayor’s TikTok @therealmainemayor has grown to 42,000 followers and has received 552,000 likes. His content relates to a broad range of topics including viral trends and windows into his daily life, but he does use the platform to promote Waterville public departments such as the police and firefighters.
Abrams and Truth were concerned over a particular video of the mayor lip-syncing to audio that said, “He likes to play catch. I asked him: can you catch these hands? He said yes so I <expletive> hit him. What is the problem?”
The pair argues that this type of language promotes violence and crude language and is an example of the mayor’s unprofessionalism.
During this visit, the mayor was on vacation in Florida, so he could not address the two YouTuber’s concerns. Instead, Abrams and Truth began entering random offices while offering little identification to civil servants and asking questions. The pair operated under their assertion that public offices technically cannot be trespassed and they were not breaking any laws. In one room they entered, they identified themselves as “me” and “moi‘’ to a bewildered civil servant.
For the most part, City Hall employees were accommodating and polite to the YouTuber’s inquisition. Many would ask “How can I help you?” and try to answer questions about the mayor’s TikTok to the best of their ability. However, in some cases, Waterville employees became confused and agitated with the line of constant questioning.
In the case of one civil engineer, the two parties exchanged heated conversation when he repeatedly asked the YouTubers to leave his office. Abrams and Truth continued to mention they had a right to be in the office and to ask him questions further frustrating the employee. The employee claimed he would throw the pair out of the office while Abrams began shushing him, a tipping point to the exchange.
After that interaction, Abrams and Truth visited the office of the acting city manager and demanded an apology from the previous civil servant. Without an apology, they said they would have to file a public complaint and go through the process of getting him fired. The City Manager returned to the employee and an apology was given to the YouTubers.
They summed up their visit by saying, “I don’t know about the mayor but his employees are doing the right thing, for the most part.”
In an interview with the Kennebec Journal, the mayor responded to the YouTuber’s visit saying he understands why they investigate First Amendment rights but feels during their visit, Abrams and Truth were searching for controversy for their channel. He also responded to the pair’s criticism over his painting and TikTok by mentioning that the portrait was a funny gift and his TikToks are meant to show his normal side.
In the same interview, the mayor said, “I feel like my TikTok shows the human side of politics. I’m still a human; I have my daily life to live. And I am what our residents are: very blue collar, hardworking and I have a sense of humor.”
When summing up the video’s response, the mayor mentioned he received some negative feedback, but, for the most part, people sent him messages of support.
~ Adrian Visscher `24
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