BRATTLEBORO -- The Selectboard continued its discussion on adopting a social media policy, but stopped short of approving the policy at Tuesday’s meeting.
The board talked about the town’s use of social media at the July 17 meeting and Town Manager Barbara Sondag presented the board with a draft policy Tuesday. But the board members said there were still too many issues and questions to consider before adopting the policy.
The board decided to schedule a special work session to debate the pros and cons of adopting a policy.
During the debate Tuesday, Selectboard member David Gartenstein said the town might want to consider taking down the sites that the town already maintains, though he said he was not advocating for such a move.
He said the existing sites might be violating Vermont Public Records law, and without a clear policy the town might be putting itself at risk.
Selectboard member Ken Schneck said it would be a step backward to take down any sites that are working.
"There are steps we could take to address the sites that up now," Schneck said. "But to take down the sites that are up now makes no sense."
Sondag said it would be a hardship on some departments that are using the sites if the board voted to take them down at this time.
Sondag said the town benefits from the sites and she said it was good for the town to have one more tool to get information out.
"It is another
At the July 17 meeting the board seemed concerned with having to hire someone to maintain the sites but Sondag said Tuesday that she would monitor and maintain the sites and work with the department heads to make sure the policy was being followed.
Selectboard member Dora Bouboulis cautioned the board on allowing town committees to have sites. She said committee social media sites might cause friction around potentially contentious issues.
Chairman Dick DeGray said any committee votes have to ultimately come before the board, and he said a web page might make it easier to get comments and advance issues.
The draft policy establishes "standards and procedures for the appropriate use of social media when conducting town business."
The board wants to establish a policy to help town staff with social media sites such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, though the board acknowledged that social media is an evolving communications tool and new resources might become available over time.
In the draft policy the town makes it clear that social media is an important tool for advancing the goals of the town, as well as to give citizens a way to communicate with town departments.
The draft policy also makes it clear that all postings on town social media sites are public and town employees are prohibited from making posts that may be confidential.
All postings on social media sites are subject to Vermont’s Public Records Law, Open Meetings law, and other rules, policies and regulations pertaining to public access.
The board had concerns on how comments would be preserved, and where public dialogue would be saved if the public demanded to see comments.
The draft policy also gives the town manager the authority to monitor public comments and remove comments that are inappropriate under the newly approved policy.
Along with profane or obscene remark, the town manager can remove comments that support or oppose political campaigns or ballot measures or those that are solicitations of commerce.
Comments that are related to the topic, but that might be favorable or unfavorable to the town will be allowed to remain, under the new policy.
Anonymous comments will not be allowed.
Town officials who want to create a new social media site must first have it approved by the town manager.
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at email@example.com or at 802-254-2311 ext. 279.