Ocean City Councilman Mark Paddack is facing serious backlash after a Facebook post deemed racist and intolerant was sent from his account over the weekend.
And while Paddack has obtained counsel and launched an investigation into what he reportedly said was a hacking of his Facebook account, council members asked for him to step down until all questions are answered. He refused.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate for you at this time to hold a position on the council until the investigation is complete,” Council President Matt James said to Paddack during a council work session Tuesday afternoon.
Paddack declined the request, and said only that he obtained an attorney, Jill Odierno, who told him not to comment on the matter publicly. He also said later in response to questions from council members that he contacted the Worcester County Sheriff’s Department as well as a “private source” to perform an investigation. There is no timeline on when the investigation will close and no other details were shared.
The controversial post, according to a screenshot, was sent from Paddack’s public Facebook account at 12:59 a.m. Saturday in response to a picture posted on Katie Priestley Hammond’s story.
The post said the following:
“Tell the dude to turn his hat back where the white designed the hat to be worn. Where I come from that is punk. Immature POS.”
Later that morning, just after 5 a.m., Preistley Hammond’s husband, Bobby Hammond, shared a screenshot of the post with a message chastising it.
“Interesting comment coming from OCMD councilman Mark Paddack sent to my wife,” Hammond’s post said. “Apparently I’m a POS for not wearing my hat the ‘white’ way… But at least I’m not a racist POS, mark. I think I’ll run for councilman next time up. Keep that seat warm for me, pal. In Worcester county we don’t have room for racism.”
Hammond said by phone Tuesday afternoon that he and his wife are Facebook friends with Paddack but had never interacted with him.
“I don’t know the gentleman I’ve never spoke to him,” Hammond said. “The only reason I accepted him is because I saw he was a former law enforcement officer and we have mutual friends that I think highly of and I thought he was alright. And he made that statement on my wife’s post which is the only interaction we’ve ever had with him.”
Hammond said Paddack sent him a follow-up message in response to the post stating that his page was hacked, but Hammond remained skeptical.
“I’d never want someone to be condemned for something they didn’t do, but it’s very easy to clear someone’s name if they didn’t do it,” Hammond said. “It’s very hard to believe that he didn’t do it.”
On Saturday evening, James took to his own Facebook page to address the issue.
“The Mayor and City Council has become aware of a social media post evidencing comments made by Councilmember Paddack’s profile,” James’ post said. “The views expressed by Councilmember Paddack’s account do not reflect the views of the Mayor and City Council, our town, or our community. The Mayor and City Council condemns and denounces all acts of racism and intolerance. I consider the comment to be shameful and totally unacceptable.”
James read the statement during Tuesday’s work session after broaching the subject and further denounced the action before asking Paddack to step down.
“There is no place for racism in Ocean City,” James said. “And it’s just very shameful that we have any elected official who has comments like that coming from their social media accounts.”
Several other council members joined James’ request during Tuesday’s meeting, including Council Secretary Tony DeLuca, and Councilmen Peter Buas and John Gehrig.
“None of us are without sin and I don’t think anybody is here to make judgement as this investigation goes on [but] it’s critical for us to be unified as a community, for us to be together. And these comments are pretty divisive,” Gehrig said. “I know it’s under investigation how they got on your page but I ask you to consider [stepping down] just as a leader. The investigation shouldn’t take long. There are ways to prove how that got there.”
Hammond did not call for Paddack’s resignation or for any other action to be taken regarding the post, but said he has confidence that the town of Ocean City will “do the right thing.”
“The only reason I posted it is because I’m from Worcester County and there’s nothing more near and dear to my heart than Worcester County and the people in it,” Hammond said. “And that includes all the people in it, whether you’re white, Black, gay straight, and if someone like that holds office not everybody’s going to get a fair shake.”
Paddack is a retired Ocean City Police officer and was elected to the nonpartisan City Council in November 2018. He served on the city’s force from 1990 until his retirement in October 2018.