Peoria, Illinois Mayor Jim Ardis is not one to be mocked.
Ardis and Peoria Police Chief Steve Settingsgaard are so bothered by a Twitter account impersonating the mayor that they’re deciding to spend a significant amount of time and money tracking down the mastermind behind the tweets.
Three Peoria residents were taken into police custody recently under suspicions that they created the account, listed as @Peoriamayor. Another two were detained at their workplaces.
One of the detainees, Michelle Pratt, told the Peoria Journal Star that police showed up at her house with a search warrant.
“They said they had a search warrant and took all the electronic devices that had Internet access,” Pratt said. “They said there had been an Internet crime that occurred at this residence. They just asked me about the Twitter account, if I knew anything about it. They brought me in like I was a criminal.”
Police Chief Settingsgaard says his department is investigating the individuals because false impersonation of public officials is a crime in Illinois. The offense is a class A misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $2,500 and a year in jail.
Pratt and others claim the account, which made frequent posts about sex and drugs, was clearly satirical in nature. Settingsgaard doesn’t agree. He notes that until March, there was nothing on the account indicating it was a parody.
“I don’t agree it was obvious, and in fact it appears that someone went to great lengths to make it appear it was actually from the mayor,” he said.
Ardis did not respond to a request by the Peoria Journal Star for a comment.