City looking at social media policy

City looking at social media policy

October 11th, 2010 by Cliff Hightower in News

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.

CITY CODE

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.