By Agrippina Fadel
The city commission agreed to create a social media policy for members on Oct. 13.
Vice Mayor Elvin Villalobos, who proposed the item, suggested the city manager, attorney, and staff draft a policy that the commission can enforce.
“There are social media outlets that are not giving us a good reputation and doing serious character damage. I think we should be able to take action against commissioners that blatantly mix facts with fiction and tend to forward those articles to our constituents,” said Villalobos.
He was referring to recent posts on The Tamarac Post, a website linked to Commissioner Marlon Bolton, which runs favorable stories about himself.
He added that existing social media rules are primarily focused on the city staff and don’t have a strong base for commission members.
Villalobos said that if any commission members lie to the press or create false narratives, there should be consequences, whether intentional or not.
Mayor Michelle Gomez agreed that drafting a policy holding commissioners accountable for their online presence and behavior is a good idea. Social media has taken on a new life and has grown over the years. She added that people could create emails and blogs, and there is no way to know who makes them.
“There are no ramifications for people taking things out of context and posting them. It creates a lot of problems. There are a lot of “spin-doctors” out there, professional, and otherwise. There should be some rules and regulations,” said Gomez.
Commissioner Debra Placko supported drafting the policy but shared her concerns.
“I have my reservations about who is going to monitor and control this, but I am willing to keep an open mind and see what the staff can come up with,” she said.
Commissioner Mike Gelin brought up the freedom of press issue, saying the city already has some rules concerning discussing public record items online.
“We are held accountable every four years; I don’t think this policy is necessary. And who will decide what is appropriate and what is not?” Gelin asked his colleagues.
City Attorney John Herin said that the issue is connected to the first amendment, but it is not that simple.
“The arena of social platforms and how they are used by local governments and elected officials is an evolving area of the law. There are some memos concerning social media, but we can compile all the information and create a policy to extend upon existing rules,” he explained.
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- Agrippina Fadel grew up in Siberia and received her master's in journalism from Tyumen State University. Agrippina is also a writer and editor at Draftsy.net. She has been a US resident for over ten years and speaks English and Russian.
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