City wants to write rules for social media use
MONROE - The City Council initiated a discussion last week on social media and how elected officials should use it to allow for citizen input but avoid risks associated with discussing city business on the Internet.
At next week’s meeting, the council will discuss forming a special committee to draft rules for communicating on such forums as Facebook.
Many council members expressed concern over the fact that communication with citizens become public record and worried that each and every interaction online might not be properly documented.
“There are some inconveniences associated with being a council member in what we can say and who we can meet with,” Councilman Kurt Goering said. “Conversation is not a public record, but in social media, it is.”
The issue became an issue after council members in October criticized Councilwoman Patsy Cudaback for writing something to a citizen on her Facebook page, which was dedicated to city business. Cudaback took down her page after Goering and Councilman Kevin Hanford accused her of breaking the law. An outside expert on this area of the law previously told the Tribune he didn’t think Cudaback broke any law.
The City Council reviewed other municipality polices on social media to model Monroe’s after. The city of Cheney’s appeared to be most favored among members.
Goering suggested modeling elected officials’ behavior after Bothell’s practice of having an online “Council Corner,” in which city officials post a statement on social media meant to inform the public of current events but bans any back-and-forth commentary.
“So, it’s not an interaction,” Councilman Jim Kamp said.
“That’s what’s recommended in these instances,” Goering said.
Cudaback said she values the importance of open government and transparency and liked how social media provides an outlet for that.
“Facebook can be used as an effective tool to engage with your constituents,” Cudaback said. “When I ran for City Council, it was on a platform of transparency and openness to connect with citizens, to really be out there.”
She also acknowledged the dangers associated with social media.
“The other perspective is that we need to make sure that we’re being aware and strategic of the pitfalls and the dangers,” Cudaback said. “We need to make sure we’re following the ethics ... that you’re not using social media to endorse candidates or push your campaign, and that there’s also records retention. We want to make sure that we’re meeting the requirement for public records compliance.”
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