Williamson County commissioners discuss social media policy following sheriff's office controversy

The Williamson County commissioner discussed its social media policy Aug. 27 following public backlash against Williamson County Sheriff's Office Commander Steve Deaton for inappropriate behavior.

Deaton remains an employee of the sheriff’s office as of Aug. 20, according to department officials. County Sheriff Robert Chody said previously that he had not fired Deaton because of vague social media policies.

Commissioners disagreed with the vagueness of the policy, which reads: “Employees may use social media in any way they choose, as long as that use does not produce adverse consequences.”

Precinct 3 Commissioner Valerie Covey as well as other court members said they believed the social media policy was as clear as it needed to be to have the grounds to fire Deaton.

“I’m sad that we have to hear about every week because this policy is more than sufficient to address this issue,” Covey said.

Precinct 1 Commissioner Terry Cook agreed on the policy's clarity.

"The current social media policy is absolutely clear to any reasonable human being what the boundary conditions are," Cook said. "There's no confusion to a reasonable person reading this policy."

Deaton’s firing has been called for by several community members in the past few weeks. Deaton has been accused of several instances of inappropriate behavior, including challenging deputies in a meeting to have sex with a female “Live PD” producer and posting graphic and racist images on Facebook.

While all court members have publicly condemned Deaton’s actions and words and have called for him to be fired, they said there is not much more they can do.

“The five of us cannot directly fire [Deaton], but if we could this issue would’ve been resolved in the beginning,” Covey said.

Nonetheless, Covey said she was in favor of making the social media policy and any other employee manual policy as clear and as straight forward as possible.

Rebecca Clemons, the senior director of human resources for the county, said the court does not have the authority to hire or fire a staff member of an elected official’s office. The court only has that power with those who work directly under the court’s jurisdiction.

It is up to the elected official's discretion to hire or fire its staff members, Clemons said.

Clemons added the court can also only strongly recommend that elected officials apply the county’s social media policies in their offices or develop stricter ones but cannot force the officials to abide by the policy.

“We would always recommend that of all elected officials, but we can’t require them to do anything," Clemons said. "We can highly recommend."

Several community members who spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting called for the court do more, such as significantly reducing the sheriff's office budget to pressure the firing of Deaton.

Gravell said that was not an option due to legal ramifications.

"[The court has] a lot of perceived power but not near as much as folks think," Gravell said. "Each elected official, they voted into office, and that's not my lane."

The court did not take any action on the discussion but intend to in the future following further legal and human resources guidance.
By Ali Linan
Ali Linan began covering Georgetown for Community Impact Newspaper in 2018. Her reporting focuses on education and Williamson County. Ali hails from El Paso and graduated from Syracuse University in 2017.


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