PLANO, AUSTIN, TML & MC
As a council member I get the benefit of being a member of Texas Municipal League. We get information on a variety of subjects. On January 31, 2018, there was a speaker named, Heather Lockhart who serves as assistant general counsel at the Texas Municipal League. As a member of the legal team, she provides legal assistance to the more than 1,150 TML member cities by answering general legal questions, participating in educational seminars, and preparing handbooks and magazine articles distributed to member cities. She also provides support for the legislative department. Her legislative duties include reviewing, analyzing, and monitoring city-related legislation, as well as meeting with and testifying before legislative committees. Before joining the TML staff, she worked as an assistant city attorney for a TML member city, the City of Dallas, in the Prosecution Section.
Heather graduated cum laude with a bachelor’s degree from The University of Florida, and she holds a J.D. with honors from The University of Texas School of Law.
Here is the summary of the webinar:
Is your city struggling with how to keep up with the ever-expanding social media world? In this webinar, Assistant General Counsel Heather Lockhart will provide an overview of legal issues associated with social media usage by public officials and employees.
The webinar will cover pitfalls in operating city social media accounts, as well as dealing with employee social media usage. You will receive practical tips on social media policy considerations, and an example social media policy that your city can use as a starting point for enacting or revising your social media policy.
For many months I would review information related to many cities enacting a social media or amending their policy. One that got my attention was City of Plano, Texas. Please view their social media Facebook page here: (See Social Media Site Terms and Conditions below.)
Many countless cities who I have seen engaged and fulfill their policy agreement, gives us high hopes that we would be just as active in fulfilling our expectations of meeting a standard for the user and from city officials.
City of Austin published their Social Media back in 2011. Click Here to view their policy.
I think we can all agree there is good information and then there is bad information. So it is up to us as Public Officials or City Administration to get the facts out there. We are in the position, whether we are elected or hired not to lead from behind. I can’t remember who told me about that point, but I thought that it was fitting for this subject. I’m not an expert in all things. But I’m going to do my best in getting the information from the appropriate sources so that when I speak to the Citizens of McLendon-Chisholm or even Council Members that I am speaking with authority.
As a council member it is my role to create policies. I’m not doing anything that is not any different than any other Council Member has done in the past, today or the future that is in relation to policy making
Open Records Requests:
Until I became a Council Member, I was not really aware of all that goes into “Open Records Requests”. I’m not foreign to doing open records requests. So through the social media policy information I was made aware that our social media sites are considered public records that may be treated as such under the Texas Public Information Act. This is a significant problem to solve before it becomes a problem. If an individual or even law enforcement were to request specific information from our City Facebook Fan page. There is so much content on there that we did not want to run the risk of missing something. So our stellar City Administrator/Secretary Lisa Palomba found a company that does a form of digital archiving. It is a month to month contract to archive our information not only today, but from previous years. AND it includes our youtube videos. Which we all know are hours long. There are 3 employees. One is part-time and only one of the three can actually perform some of these types of requests. It takes a lot of time and is very time consuming. City Secretaries are one of the hardest working people that I know and I sure appreciate ours that is serving MC.
The Social Media Policy is no different than any of the other cities. Maybe the font size is increased so that one could read it without squinting I suppose. But it is a pretty standard policy.
We do err on the side of not deleting comments. However there are limits. And we are pretty clear what those limits are. We explained the procedure that will follow afterwards of not following the use of the site. The City will err on the side of non-removal of comments being made. Our city sure got a fair enough of complaints regarding the Facebook Live broadcasts of the City Council Meetings specifically over the comments being “distracting” and requests for the comments to be turned off. We could not manage to do that with Facebook. This is what ultimately led us to Youtube Live Broadcasting without the comment feature turned on. Can the videos be shared? Absolutely. In addition to that it solves another issue where we were getting complaints from individuals that we were not responding during a City Council Meeting. Which we can not do anyway, because of Texas Open Meetings Act (TOMA).
There are thousands of entities, groups to a variety of fan pages that lay out a guideline or expectations of the user as well as the admin. Rules or guidelines are needed so that we know what is the standard operating procedure.
Promoting Certain Candidates
We do not promote one candidate over their opposition. There was a recent accusation regarding Mayor Pro Tem Orchard in sharing a message through his Facebook account. He can do that. In fact, because of his position and his past involvement with negotiations with MCVFD it was shared on the City Fan Page. As I mentioned above, our role is to speak from a position of authority which it was necessary for Mayor Pro Tem to do so at that time. This was not a post to say, please vote for _____ or some sort of political ad campaign.
If ever, you need clarity of a policy or something that you may have heard please talk to those who actually created it or the City Administration. It will save you the headache and the drama to go to the source of the matter.
Please do read the Social Media Policy below.