Selectboard friends social media policy

Thursday October 4, 2012

BRATTLEBORO - After debating some of the finer points, and discussing who would have authority to monitor and access online comments, the Selectboard unanimously adopted a new social media policy at its regular meeting Tuesday night.

The vote capped months of study, including a 15-page opinion by Robert Fisher, the town’s attorney, which addressed whether the policy would adhere to the state’s open meeting and open record laws.

Fisher said the new policy appears to comply with the law, though he said the town should "have the enforcement mechanisms identified by the policy in place before, or concurrent with, adoption of the policy."

The Selectboard has been going through a model policy issued by the Vermont League of Cities and Towns for about two months, and even on Tuesday, as the board prepared to vote, there was discussion among the board members about whether it was appropriate for town committees and boards to conduct online conversations.

Selectboard members Dora Bouboulis and David Gartenstein both said they had concerns about committee members communicating through Facebook or Twitter about on-going town projects and issues.

Bouboulis and Gartenstein said it was important for all debate to happen during an open meeting, and if a committee had its own Facebook page, interested parties could carry on a discussion that could possibly influence a decision.

"I still have concerns about that," said Bouboulis. "It is dangerous if we start to allow for that."

Town Manager Barbara Sondag said the websites ideally would be a way for citizens to weigh in on town issues and offer comments.

In the end, the board agreed that committee members must adhere to all town policies, and committee members would be removed from their positions if they violated the open meeting laws twice.

The board members also were happy with Sondag’s assertion that town officials would be responsible for pages that came out of their department, and the town officials would make sure the comments remained respectful and appropriate.

Tuesday’s meeting also included a 45-minute discussion on the skatepark proposed for Crowell Lot. Neighbors from the area near the park continue to come out to the Seletcboard, pressing for additional community forums to talk about the site selection process. However, the board did not comment much on the remarks made Tuesday.

A Paint the Pavement project for the Cedar-Myrtle streets neighborhood will be able to proceed after the board adopted a townwide Paint the Pavement policy.

Paint the Pavement projects bring neighborhoods together to work on an art installation on streets or sidewalks. Sondag said the Cedar-Myrtle project will act as a pilot project to give the town time to work out the details before it adopts the policy as an ordinance.

The Selectboard, acting as the town’s Liquor Commissioners, approved two liquor licenses for the new owners of two establishments in town. Zachary Corbin, who has been operating the Le Cart outside of Peter Haven’s Restaurant on Elliot Street, is purchasing the restaurant and hopes to open soon. And Robert Wolseley, of Newbury, N.H., purchased the former Beacon Bar and Restaurant and hopes to reopen it as The Cue Bar.

With the Planing Commission having completed its work on the Town Plan, the Selectboard has to schedule two public hearings before officially adopting the plan. The board set the dates of Nov. 5 and Nov. 20 for townwide discussion on the plan.

Board Chairman Dick DeGray recognized Annette Cappy, who was named Vermont Town Clerk of the Year during this year’s meeting of the Vermont Municipal Clerks’ & Treasurers’ Association.


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