Waterville Mayor Jay Coelho stands outside of City Hall in 2020. A YouTube channel alleges Coelho is unprofessional, in part, because of his posts on social media. Contributed file photo

A recent visit to Waterville City Hall by a couple of men with a popular YouTube channel raised questions about the mayor’s professionalism over his social media posts while raising tensions among some staff about public access.

The “First Amendment audit” video on Jan. 17 by the Accountability For All channel, which has about 113,000 YouTube subscribers, took particular aim at Waterville Mayor Jay Coelho and his posts on social media platform TikTok. The two men, who seek to prove that public spaces and municipal officials should be accessible and can be recorded by cameras, made a number of stops in town and city halls across Maine last month, including at offices in Sidney, Clinton, Bangor, Rockland, Damariscotta and Biddeford.

The pair of YouTubers, led by a man named Josh with another camera-wielding man from “Leroy Truth Investigations,” devoted much of their Waterville visit to criticizing Coelho, who was out of town when they arrived unannounced.

The YouTube channel Accountability for All recorded video of Waterville Mayor Jay Coelho’s oil painting in his office during a recent First Amendment audit of the public space. YouTube screenshot

Based on their prior research, the YouTubers said Coelho “sees himself as a viral TikToker” with his “therealmainemayor” account and “uses his TikTok channel to mock his constituents,” citing a video of the mayor “playing the world’s smallest violin” with his fingers in response to being called unprofessional. The YouTubers go on to falsely claim that Coelho is paid $7,000 a month for the part-time job and is the “highest paid mayor in Maine.” (He’s not — Portland’s mayor is, at an annual salary over $100,000, while Coelho is paid an annual $5,000 stipend for the largely ceremonial role to run City Council meetings.)

“It’s clear he sees himself as your overlord and king,” Josh says in the video, pointing the camera at an oil painting hanging in Coelho’s office that depicts the mayor “in a throne-like chair with an expensive mink coat and a staff.”


Coelho later said in an interview that while he’s supportive of First Amendment audits, he thinks the YouTubers “were looking for controversy” and didn’t seem to understand that the painting (which was a gift), like his TikTok videos, show humor and his human side as Waterville’s elected mayor. His TikTok account has nearly 42,000 followers.

“I feel like my TikTok shows the human side of politics. I’m still a human; I have my daily life to live,” Coelho said. “And I am what our residents are: very blue collar, hardworking and I have a sense of humor.”

The handful of City Hall employees confronted by the YouTubers said they were aware of Coelho’s TikTok videos but didn’t watch them or know much about them, prompting Josh to play some of the video clips out loud and press them to comment on whether they thought it was professional.

Their tour through Waterville City Hall didn’t come without disruption. Tensions rose when they approached City Engineer Andy McPherson, who became agitated when the YouTubers wouldn’t identify themselves by name and kept filming him in his office, asking him to comment on whether Coelho is a good mayor.

“This is a public office … I’m engaging in a constitutionally protected activity,” Josh said.

“I’ve only probably talked to him three times in my life,” McPherson said of Coelho. “I’m an engineer, so I don’t get involved in politics.”


Josh played a Coelho TikTok video of the mayor lip-syncing to an expletive about hitting someone. An agitated McPherson threatened to call police on them for not leaving him alone. “You’re (expletive) weirdos, is what you are … I’ll throw you out,” McPherson said, as Josh lectured him in a mocking tone about constitutional rights and public access. “Get the (expletive) out of here.”

The YouTubers then spoke with Acting City Manager Bill Post about McPherson’s “idle threats” and unprofessional language toward them. Post apologized for McPherson’s behavior and went to speak with the city engineer, who later came out into the hall and apologized to the YouTubers. “Sorry I got agitated,” McPherson said. “I guess I did something wrong. I wish you guys would have identified yourselves a little better, but I had no idea who you were, and now I know who you are, and I apologize.”

“I think maybe we got off on the wrong foot,” Josh responded, “and my viewers saw maybe a skewed view of you; they can see now you’re a public servant who accepts his responsibility and is open to discourse, so I appreciate that.”

But the YouTubers left with a decidedly harsh assessment of Coelho, with Josh later giving the middle finger to the mayor’s oil painting on camera.

Coelho noted that his day job is working for a marketing firm that creates social media posts for a number of people and businesses, and that he uses his TikTok presence to be an “extremely transparent civic person” who is self-deprecating and promoting Waterville.

“I find it ironic they came to complain about me using the First Amendment while they’re doing a First Amendment audit. This is the other part of my life and I share intimate details of my life,” Coelho said. “It’s not like I’m the mayor of Boston. I’m the mayor of Waterville, Maine.”

Coelho said the city received a few calls and emails complaining about him after the YouTube video posted (all from out-of-staters, he said), but that response died down after a week. “I’ve gotten so many more messages of support,” he said.

It’s not uncommon for controversy to be stirred on social media with local, state and national politicians, and that’s certainly been true in Waterville as well. In 2018, then-Mayor Nick Isgro faced backlash over social media posts that sparked an unsuccessful effort to recall him from office. Coelho was elected mayor in 2020, after Isgro decided not to run for reelection following six years in office.

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