Leander City Council members and staff now have written social media participation policies.
City Council voted 6-1 to adopt social media policies during a meeting Feb. 7, with Council Member Christine Sederquist opposed. The policies provide guidelines for navigating social media—such as Facebook and Twitter—which many local governments use to connect with members of the community.
“It’s all about setting expectations for the public,” city spokesperson Mike Neu said during the meeting. “How can the public expect to best engage with [council members]using social media? That’s really why these policies exist.”
The guidelines encourage City Council members to distinguish between their official and personal social media accounts with a statement on their profiles. If council members choose to make an official account to engage with constituents, they should recognize that account is a public forum, which means users have the right to comment on their posts and any speech that is restricted would be subject to “strict scrutiny,” according to the policy.
The guidelines also encourage council members to redirect political dialogue that happens within a personal account to email, phone or a preferred social media account.
The policy pertaining to city employees states that publishing content on personal accounts that could negatively affect public confidence in city operations could result in corrective action. The policy also states that city employees cannot use personal accounts in a way that causes people to believe the content they produce is endorsed by the city. Violation of the policy for city employees results in corrective action up to termination.
Sederquist said she does not think the policies should be codified.
“I think the guidelines are beautiful,” Sederquist said. “I hate the idea, though, of it’s essentially saying ‘be civil’ on a lot of it…I don’t want to codify ‘be civil to people.’”
Council Member Marci Cannon said she thinks the policy is necessary.
“We’ve seen in the past that we need it,” Cannon said. “I think it’s only healthy to have it in there and not just assume that everyone is going to do it.”
You may read the adopted policies in full below.