Lynne Hermansen
Special to The Gardner News
Gardner’s social media policy was amended by the council at their Oct. 5 council meeting.
The changes to the policy give the city administrator and public information officer more authority to oversee social media for boards, commissions, committees, the city Council and mayor.
Alan Abramovitz, human resources manager, said the original policy has been in effect since February 2014.
“We are bringing the language up to date,” he said.
Abramovitz said currently all city employees sign the acknowledgement form when they are hired.
Amended language to the policy includes allowing the city administrator or public information officer to contact an elected or appointed official requesting they stop commenting on a particular issue.
Abramovitz said social media has become one of the main channels of communication and is an excellent tool for public organizations.
Rich Melton, council member, said he wanted to know what the rules for punishment for policy violations would be implemented.
“There is nothing in here if someone violates,” he said. “If someone violates it what are the options.”
Steve Shute, mayor, said there are no current internal controls for disciplinary actions.
“We are self-policing,” he said.
Shute said the only courses of action currently are resignation, recalling an election or death.
Melton said he was also referring to the commission side and not just members of the governing body.
Shute said he agreed things need to be clarified.
Ryan Denk, city attorney, said there are lots of shades of gray.
“Minor violations are usually handled with a corrective direction,” he said. “Most severe then everyone’s subjected to language for remove of cause.”
Denk said punishments should fit the crime, and they should take each case as they come.
Mark Baldwin, council member, said the policy hits three groups that have three different outcomes.
“We should add specific repercussions for who we are talking to,” he said.
Shute said he would like to see a requirement for social media training.
Randy Gregorcyk, council member, said he also thought that was a good first step.
“I don’t know if we have the whole enchilada,” he said. “We should look at surrounding communities and their sanctions.”
Gregorcyk said he would like a policy formulated that is still viable six to ten years from now.
Jennifer Smith, Gardner, addressed board members about the policy during public comments.
She said a social media policy is extremely needed and updated for elected officials here and in the future.
Smith said she had addressed the codes of conduct and ethical issues several months ago.
“There needs to be accountability and repercussions for positions,” she said.
Smith said social media training was needed even for voluntary committee members.
The council agreed to require social media training for all employees, boards, committees, commissions and governing bodies before they sign the City’s Social Media Acknowledgement Policy.