By Nikki Jamieson
There is now a list of acceptable things the town of Taber can tweet about.
During their regular July 18 meeting, the Town of Taber council read and passed motions to accept two new social media policies, which were both passed unanimously.
At their May 9 regular meeting, town council had voted unanimously to direct administration to revisit the Town of Taber’s code of conduct, professionalism and social media policies. At the time, a review was being undergone of their previous social media policy by administration.
“It’s an amalgamation of many municipalities’ different social media usages and their policies,” said Meghan Brennan, communications officer for the town. “Most of it, I’ll be honest, were changes in the procedures, because that’s what we use in our day-to-day stuff. The policies you’ll see are a lot of what can occur if something goes wrong on social media, what are our responsibilities if there is a disaster, if there is a media crisis happening, so that is what mostly has changed.”
The town’s previous social media policy, CS-IT-3, is expanded upon in the new policies, and upon their passing, CS-IT-3 is rescinded.
The first Policy, Social Media Internal Organization Usage Policy, ADM-7, covers topics such as defining who is allowed to use social media on behalf of the town, what town employees, councillors and volunteers are allowed to post on behalf of the town, stresses employees are not allowed to use town email for their personal social media accounts, requirements for non-authorized employees to be able to post on town social media and what to do in cases of suspected security breaches on official town pages or websites.
Mayor Henk De Vleiger mentioned that he liked section 10K in the Internal Organization Usage procedures, as it outlines what is unacceptable social media use for a town employee. But he was troubled to learn that policies can change after their approval by council.
“If we want issues from happening again,” said De Vlieger, on what he liked about it. “That goes more into the specific details, it lists what you can or can’t do, as a town employee, but that’s not something you would want to put in policy… 10k hits the point, as far as I’m concerned.”
Section 10k of the Internal policy procedures states that, “Unacceptable personal social media usage for a Town employee includes:
i) Confidential, privileged, or personal information on coworkers, Council, citizens, or business matters that employees may be privy to;
ii) Discriminatory or hateful language;
iii) Language that incites racism or hatred to a protected group;
iv) Encouragement or demonstrative of illegal behaviour;
v) Privileged information that Town employees may have access to but are required to keep confidential;
vi) A post that may compromise the security of Town employees, public systems, equipment, buildings, or other property;
vii) Violations of any municipal, provincial, or federal laws or bylaws;
viii) Posts that may diminish or harm any relationship or has the potential to harm relationships between the Town of Taber and other public bodies or private corporations.”
While De Vlieger may be worried about any changes to official policy, according to town CAO Greg Birch, he does not need to worry about administration taking the policy out after the fact, as changes to policies are very rare.
“It’s not usually your administration’s key priority to go running illegal procedures and try to do whatever they want in the office of the day,” said Birch. “Once they get adopted, like this, they don’t change very much.”
Council’s request for administration to conduct a review of the policy was prompted over the controversy that had sprung from when the town’s IT manager Tom Moffatt — who was a former Lethbridge NDP candidate — tweeted on his private Twitter account: “Karmic #climatechange fire burns CDN oilsands city.” While the controversial tweet was later deleted, by then it had been screen captured and shared across various social media platforms, prompting a backlash against Moffatt, and a negative image for the Town of Taber and the provincial NDP by virtue of association.
Moffat was suspended in a decision by town council on a May 6 special meeting, pending the outcome of an investigation into his comment, but had returned to work last month. The decision to suspend him attracted national media attention, although council provided no official statement on it, nor have they spoke on his return to work.
At their May 9 regular meeting, town council had voted unanimously to direct administration to revisit the Town of Taber’s code of conduct, professionalism and social media policies.