published Monday, October 11th, 2010

City looking at social media policy

by Cliff Hightower

The city of Chattanooga may adopt a social media policy after an administrator and her subordinate admitted using work time to post on Facebook and Twitter about a for-profit company they own.

“We’re just beginning to address it,” said Richard Beeland, spokesman for Mayor Ron Littlefield. “We don’t want it to be a knee-jerk reaction.”

The response comes after Department of Education, Arts and Culture Administrator Missy Crutchfield admitted she spent part of her work days, along with department spokeswoman Melissa Turner, marketing their for-profit publication, Be Magazine.


The Chattanooga City Code has specific requirements about using facilities and time. The code states:

* An official or employee shall not use or authorize the use of municipal time, facilities, equipment or supplies for private gain or advantage to himself.

* An official or employee shall not use or authorize the use of municipal time, facilities, equipment or supplies for private gain or advantage to any private person or entity, except as authorized by legitimate contract or lease that is determined by the governing body to be in the best interests of the municipality.

The city’s audit committee last week asked City Auditor Stan Sewell and City Council Auditor Randy Burns immediately to begin a full investigation of the department.

City officials first began talking about a social media policy seven months ago. The discussion was sparked when former Chamber of Commerce Vice President Hayes Ledford resigned after posting a Facebook message calling Muslims “ragheaded.”

Beeland said last week the administration is talking to officials in other cities about how they handle social media. One problem, he said, will be addressing how to deal with employees who can access social media through personal cell phones.

“We said that was something we are looking at, and we are,” he said.

It’s a complicated issue, Beeland said. But he added that there is a difference between Crutchfield and Ledford.

“I don’t care what medium you are using — Facebook, Twitter, YouTube — if you’re not working [on city business], you shouldn’t be doing it,” he said.

Councilwoman Carol Berz, chairwoman of the Budget, Personnel and Finance Committee, said she doesn’t know if a social media policy is needed.

She said the City Code, which states that an official or employee “shall not use or authorize the use of municipal time, facilities, equipment or supplies for private gain or advantage to himself” seems to cover the bases.

“What’s missing from the code as it is?” she asked. “I’m uncertain there is a loophole as it is.”

Councilman Peter Murphy, chairman of the Legal and Legislative Committee, said he would welcome a spelled-out policy. He said it wouldn’t be proper to tell employees they couldn’t post on social media sites during breaks or lunch hours.

“If we find an employee spending two hours on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, we’ve got a problem,” he said.

Murphy, who posts on Facebook himself, said a policy could include “official use” of social media by city workers and council members.

But he said the policy would need to come from the administration since it is responsible for the city’s 2,500 employees.

“It’s up to the mayor to establish this,” he said.

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Allison12 said...

Mr. Beeland is correct, "there is a difference between Crutchfield and Ledford." There is a huge difference, Missy Crutchfield was advertising her privately owned LLC, Be Magazine in City newsletters, the City Website, and in ad space donated publications leveraged under the color of city business, including Be Magazine, and her radio show on 98.1 called "Speak Out with Missy Crutchfield." Also, different is the fact that Be Magazine was advertised in City ads for months, and Mr. Leadford was a one time incident of personal opinion, rather than profit motive. Yes, it is different Mr. Beeland, Mr. Leadford was personal opinion, Missy Crutchfield was stealing public resources by advertising her private LLC in taxpayer funded publications. Clearly, this Department that does not have ethical boundaries.

October 11, 2010 at 7:52 a.m.
mike68 said...

Allison 12 you clearly don't know what you're talking about! Be Magazine was listed as an LLC, however she didn't set it up that way to make a profit. It was simply done that way to protect her if she was ever sued by something that was put on the site, and therefore she could not be sued her personally. This was given to her at the advice of several attorneys. This Be Magazine website was used as a marketing tool to assist in promoting her department. NO advertising or sponsorships have ever been sold on the website. None whatsoever! The website has also been no secret since its been online since November 2009. The radio show, Speak Out!, she does not own. She is only the host! She is not paid to host the radio show at that. The radio program is an opportunity again, to promote areas of her department. NO TAX PAYER DOLLARS! That's a fact Allison 12! Do your homework before you start making statements, because you don't know what you're talking about.

So, she's generated NO revenue from the website, & NO income from the radio show. So, Allison 12, there's been NO stealing going on! Missy Crutchfield puts in a lot of hours & works hard for her department. I know first hand!

Again, do your homework & get your facts straight Allison 12! You simply DO NOT know what in heck you're talking about!!!!

October 11, 2010 at 11:52 p.m.
Neo said...

Personal gain comes in many forms.

Be magazine failing to generate revenue or earn a profit is irrelevant.

Ms. Crutchfield already stated to the media she set up the LLC to promote and market her day job with the EAC, that is personal gain.

Clearly, she intended to use BE magazine to toot her own department's horn, and make herself and her department look good from it, that is also personal gain, using her LLC to essentially write her own press and paint herself as a leader, as the head and not the tail.

If you are going to set up a non-profit enterprise you do it properly as the IRS requires and do not register with the state as a for profit LLC.

Lots of for profit ventures operate in the red, yet the IRS still treats them as for profit enterprises, and failing to generate revenue does not negate their for profit status.

The IRS will probably crawl up her LLC's posterior with a microscope before this is all said an done, since that is usually what happens when you try and say your for profit venture is a non-profit.

Ms. Crutchfield's statement that she set up the LLC to protect herself from possible copyright infringement lawsuits is utterly ludicrous.

If you wish to protect the name of your business you file a trademark registration.

If you wish to protect the content of your web site you file a copyright and make certain to use only original content you created and not steal content from the website of others.

A significant amount of the content on Be Magazine's website appears to have been scraped from other sites, and would violate the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Basically she is just recycling content and positive news stories from other sites and trying to pass it off as her own original magazine with a warm-fuzzy, feel-good story vibe.

October 15, 2010 at 9:24 a.m.
Neo said...

As far as the actual idea of the City creating a social media policy, it's most likely more "let's make it right after the fact and change the laws or how things function to cover our own posteriors", as they did with the way they handled how the city attorney was working with the city outside the scope of state law.

October 15, 2010 at 9:27 a.m.
stratparrott said...

Good thing they actually contacted any of the local Agencies that deal with development of Social Media Policies.

January 9, 2011 at 10:54 p.m.
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