Coppell City Council presented a draft social media policy on Tuesday with the aim of establishing rules and guidelines for elected officials and elected officials appointed by the board of directors.
Hannah Cook, director of communications, said the policy would apply to elected officials, boards of directors and members of appointed commissions and committees. She said the employee handbook sets out the rules for city employees to follow.
Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn as well as Internet publications and communication are included in this policy. Cook added that the policy would help the city better align with the public information law. In addition, guidelines would allow for more consistent communication, protect the city’s brand, identify the city’s spokespersons and messages, and modernize the community information office.
Cook said elected officials and appointed board and committee members would be able to maintain personal websites, blogs and social networking sites. Any content published on these sites may not violate the laws, directives, rules or regulations of the city in force.
She added that all elected and appointed board members have the right to express their thoughts and ideas on social media as long as they do not interfere with the city’s operations and governance.
“In essence, the policy reminds elected officials… that there are special considerations that come into play when posting on city affairs,” Cook said.
She added that any business or city communication conducted by a city official from a personal or work account is considered a public record.
Under the proposed policy, elected officials may not disclose confidential information, engage in activities in violation of federal, state or local laws, use social media to circumvent election or campaign requirements, and remove posts or comments on matters relating to the city.
Cook added that the proposed policy could be resubmitted to the board at a later date if it wishes to review it.
Councilor Mark Hill asked what happens if an elected official breaks policy. Cook said it would be up to the council to order the punishment.
“You have to have some bite or it just doesn’t make sense,” said Mayor Wes Mays.
Cook said he interviewed 35 surrounding towns. Four cities – Dallas, Cedar Hill, Richardson and Leander – all have policies, and several more, including Farmers Branch, are studying social media regulation.
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