Council easing restrictions on social media use by Township staff

Brock Township has approved changes to its social media policy for members of municipal staff.

The amended policy was unanimously approved by members of council at Monday’s (Jan. 21) meeting of the administration committee.

The policy instituted during the last term prohibited 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 noted in a report from CAO/Clerk Thom Gettinby, the municipality received a fair amount of criticism for instituting such measures.

“Following its approval, a number of concerns were raised by the public and some staff members that the policy served to undermine their rights as ratepayers, specifically in regard to calling into question the decisions of council and senior staff,” the reports reads.

“In response, the policy was reviewed against other municipalities as well as a thorough review by the Regional Solicitor’s office. Having regard for other policies and advice from our solicitor, the policy has been amended to reflect a more advisory approach and to encourage questions should staff members be in doubt.”

Prior to approval, Ward 3 Councillor Walter Schummer noted that the language has been “significantly softened” in the new policy, while Ward 1 Councillor Mike Jubb thanked staff for taking the time to rework it.

Both were highly critical of the former policy heading into the election.

The revisions approved by council present a number of guidelines for staff to follow. They include:

– Staff will not access or post to any social media accounts during work hours, unless they are on a designated break/lunch;

– Staff will not use the Township of Brock’s logo, crest, and any corporate images on their personal social media accounts;

– Staff will not use their personal social media accounts to respond to online inquiries or comments directed to the Township of Brock by the public;

– Staff should not use their personal social media accounts to comment or question any of the Township of Brock’s policies, procedures and decisions of council or senior staff in a profane, offensive or abusive manner on the basis that there are alternate mechanisms in place to address any concerns. Staff who do provide comment in this regard shall clearly state that the opinions expressed are that as an individual only;

– Notwithstanding, staff are responsible to ensure that their behaviour does not violate applicable legislation and policies and procedures adopted by the Township of Brock;

– Staff-to-staff work related conversations will take place during regular business hours, in person, on the phone including text messages, or email and will not be conducted via social media;

– Staff will not post material that reflects poorly on the Township of Brock;

– Staff will respect corporate confidentiality and not divulge any confidential papers or matters, or other information;

– Staff should not identify themselves as a Township of Brock employee on personal social media accounts. Even if you do not identify yourself as a Township of Brock employee, be advised the content on your social media accounts may tie or link you to the Township of Brock. Staff who use Linkedin for networking purposes may post that they work for the Township of Brock; and,

– Staff should not use any visual cues that are easily identifiable with the Corporation of the Township of Brock.

It also removes a provision stating that staff should not share Township posts on their personal pages.

“Township of Brock employees who fail to comply with this policy may be subject to discipline, in accordance to the Township’s Progressive Discipline Policy, up to and including termination of employment on repeated violations of this policy,” the policy concludes.

“In addition, depending on the nature of the online change/page content, participants may also be subject to civil and/or criminal penalties. Staff who may be in doubt are advised not to post/publish material and seek clarification in advance.”

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