WESTBROOK — The city has adopted a social media policy to hold city employees accountable for inappropriate online posts.
The City Council on Monday voted 6-0, with Councilor Anna Turcotte absent, to adopt the policy. Prior to this there was no policy in place to regulate social media use.
According to City Administrator Jerre Bryant, the city had an “obligation” to create the policy. He said not having one put the city at risk if an employee posted inflammatory or hateful speech or images on a city or personal page.
There are Facebook pages for various city departments as well as a general City of Westbrook page. Some departments use Twitter and other platforms as well. Jennifer Ogden, the city’s director of human resources, said the policy was written to “create some symmetry and structure” for all departments to use.
While the policy focuses primarily on city social media pages, city employees can also be reprimanded for posts on their personal accounts if the content is hateful towards minorities or other protected groups. Bryant said that especially applies to people who are in higher positions of authority.
“No one’s being inhibited to be able to speak and say whatever their beliefs are, but they can’t represent themselves in any way as speaking on behalf of the city because that’s an inappropriate use of their position,” he said.
Ogden made it clear that the city is not going “to thwart anyone’s amendments or their right to freedom of speech in any way,” but that people in positions of power need to be respectful. The policy doesn’t apply to elected officials.
The city won’t be monitoring employees’ personal social media accounts and will only take action if a post is reported to human resources. Based on the severity of the offense, the employee could get a lecture, a training on appropriate social media use, or could be reprimanded.
The policy also prohibits city employees from using social media at work, unless it’s to post on city accounts.
Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.
The Westbrook City Council has adopted the city’s first social media policy.