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M.D. of Taber council examining social media policy

Posted on January 22, 2020 by Taber Times

By Cole Parkinson
Taber Times

The Municipal District of Taber has continued to mull over the addition of a social media policy to their arsenal.

With no policy in place, the Social Media Policy was originally brought forward in June of last year and was discussed again at their Oct. 30 policy meeting.

From that meeting, council had directed administration to develop the policy using the Rural Municipality of Alberta template and it was brought back to their policy meeting on Jan. 6.

“The intent of social media is a powerful way to interact with the public. It provides transparency to how public services are provided,” reads the council memo.

As far as social media in the M.D., the municipality currently has Twitter and Facebook, the Community Peace Officer program also has a Facebook page and the Regional Fire Service operates five Facebook pages for the six stations as Barnwell and Taber use the same page.

The memo also lists the benefits of having social media as saving money, educating the audience, citizen engagement, building public trust and attracting, engageing and maintaining citizens in volunteer capacities.

“I think the policy looks good, the only question I have is if they are posting do they have to have signed off training? And are there specific identified posters? Is it the two members of IT, is it the CPO, is it the CAO, is it the fire chief or is there a designate? And I think Arlos (Crofts, M.D. CAO) would have a list of who those people are to make sure they have the right training,” said Coun. Tamara Miyanaga. “If we want to proceed with it, I think what you could do is, the CAO identifies the people who post. That way, we can move forward on this policy and he still controls that.”

A question was asked how in-depth the CAO would want to be informed for every social media post from each of their accounts.

“I want to know every controversial issue, not necessarily every post but every issue,” answered Crofts, who also discussed having a set number of employees who would be permitted to use their social media. “On a procedural level, the CAO can establish that list and implement it that way.”

The guideline used for crafting their social media policy was the Rural Municipalities of Alberta’s version, and both sections of the M.D.’s policy — Guidelines for Personal Use and Guidelines for Official Municipality Use — draw heavily from what RMA had put forward.

In terms of personal use, the M.D. policy states ‘as employees and members of council are viewed as representatives of the M.D. even outside of regular working hours, they are expected to conduct themselves in online forums in a manner that would not damage or discredit the municipality, its services, or its ratepayers.’

It also touches on the fact disciplinary action would happen if employees were discovered to use ‘social media to harm the M.D.’s image, non-partisan status, business activities or ratepayers.’

For official municipality use, it states ‘staff members are required to use these official channels only to communicate relevant and official information, promote M.D. services and programs, and respond to incoming enquiries,’ and ‘content deemed to be opinion-based, partisan or otherwise controversial must be specifically approved by the appropriate internal director.’

A concern that has been brought up before around posting images of car crashes was once again brought forward.

“The only complaint I have had on this is identifiable vehicles in an accident. That has caused some hurt feelings,” stated Coun. Brian Brewin.

One way suggested to control that was through further training for anyone who would be on any M.D. social media.

“What I wanted to make sure of, and because it is referenced in the LadderUp (Consulting report), is that if we are going to post on our social media or our websites, that those people have the training (the CAO) deems fit and he has the list to regulate it. Our fire departments are very extensive, if it is more than staff, we want to make sure we know who it is. If it is just staff, that is easily managed by our CAO,” continued Miyanaga.

A motion was carried to recommend the policy to council with the CAO determining who is permitted to manage M.D. social media accounts.

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