HUBER HEIGHTS — Should Huber Heights City Council have rules regarding its members’ use of social media? Two council members managed to delay that possibility Monday night, but the discussion is far from over.
Each year, city council passes its rules of council. This year’s rules included some changes in how council handles complaints and a whole new section on social media usage.
The social media section includes provisions that ensure individual council member’s social media sites will not be construed as official city communication, including suggested disclaimers. It also includes guidelines about information that should not be included on individuals’ sites, such as information about city personnel and business trade secrets.
It also states that elected officials should not use internet platforms to communicate with employees about city-related matters.
This didn’t sit well with council members Richard Shaw and Glenn Otto. Both voted against the rules of council because of the social media guidelines. Mark Campbell and Ed Lyons were absent from Monday’s meeting, with the remaining four members of council voting for the standards. However, five votes are needed to pass a motion so the motion failed.
After the meeting, Shaw and Otto both said they felt the standards were unnecessary.
“When we ran for council we stated at that time we don’t believe in a social media policy,” Shaw said. “We both have run our Facebook council pages in an appropriate and professional manner and don’t see any need to have any rules or guidelines dictate that.”
“There’s no need to regulate that among council,” he said. “It’s unnecessary. In my opinion, it’s just another attempt to control certain messages and I just don’t find that necessary.”
Mayor Jeff Gore is on the other side of the issue.
“It’s really meant to protect the city,” Gore said. “I believe we made it very clear that the policy isn’t meant to control the speech of anyone, it’s not to limit free speech from anyone. This council is nine individuals who use social media in different ways and it has to be delineated that when someone speaks they’re not speaking on behalf of the city.”
Gore said the guidelines also would prevent social media accounts from being regarded as public record.
“Our charter specifies that the city maintain the record, not a third party,” Gore said. He said any public requests or questions should be handled through the city’s official media connections, not through individual social media pages.
“The city has a Facebook page, the city has a website, we have all the things necessary for that,” he said. “There’s such a fine line between where the city becomes liable for the things that are said and what becomes a matter of public record and the way that it’s said. So the policy is designed to weigh all of that information. I still believe it’s what we need.”
The vote won’t end the debate. Council will take up the issue again at its next work session and since it is required to pass rules of council each year, it will have to bring the rules back up for a vote again in the near future, most likely at the next council meeting. The rules could include the social media policy as it is written or with any changes decided upon at the work session.
That work session will take place March 5, 6 p.m., at city hall. Council’s next meeting will be March 11, 7 p.m. at city hall.
Reach Dave Lindeman at (937) 684-8983 or on Twitter @HH_Courier.