Changes to Township’s social media policy prohibit employees from questioning council decisions

Brock Township is making a move to tighten its social media policy involving the personal social media accounts of its employees.

Members of council approved revisions to the policy at the administration and personnel committee meeting Monday (March 26) that prohibit employees from using their social media accounts to “comment or question any of the Township of Brock’s policies, procedures and decisions of council.”

As well, the policy states that staff shall “not post material that reflects poorly on the Township of Brock” but contains no explanation or description of what that would entail.

The initial policy, drafted in May of 2013, contained no such restrictions for staff.

Though members of council discussed the matter only briefly, Ward 5 Councillor Lynn Campbell asked whether the policy covers volunteer firefighters, while Ward 4 Councillor Therese Miller asked whether it included disciplinary action should it be breached.

CAO/Clerk Thom Gettinby answered both questions affirmatively.

The revisions to the social media policy do not extend to local politicians.

“This is not specifically for members of council, although we do speak to it in the council code of conduct. Basically, ensuring people are treated with respect and so on and so forth,” Gettinby said.

“It’s well recognized that members of council do use various social media to promote their issues and messages…there’s no intention here to prevent that as part of their normal and customary duties as an elected representatives.”

As noted by Gettinby, council’s code of conduct does prohibit members from posting “inappropriate content,” defined thusly:

– disclosure of confidential information (either through in-camera meetings or oral/written communications from other members of Council and staff);

– discriminatory language including discriminatory, derogatory portrayal of individuals or groups, demeaning language, or anything that could be deemed inappropriate;

– personal opinions or comments of Township staff or other elected officials (individually or collectively);

– commercial endorsements or solicitations;

– promotion of illegal activities;

– information which may compromise the safety and security of the public, public systems, members of council, and staff;

– content that violates a legal ownership interest of any other party; and,

– statements that could be interpreted as slanderous or libelous.

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