City eyes social media policy

by Tom Coombe -

Ely city officials are wrestling with how to manage what figures to be a ramped up presence on social media.
Council members took no action Tuesday on a proposed social media policy, designed in part to clarify how the city would communicate through social media venues such as Facebook.
While there was no opposition to the policy, which was recommended by the city’s telecommunications advisory board, mayor Chuck Novak voiced caution about provisions - particularly about those that would allow the city to edit or remove comments.
“We may not have that right,” said Novak.
Novak cited a recent court ruling that could hinder municipalities from taking action on public comments left on a Facebook page.
“There’s a court ruling that has come about that if you allow comments, whether you like them or not you can’t take them off,” said Novak.
Novak cited earlier council discussions on the issue and suggested the city steer clear of thorny issues.
“I think we had the discussion about not having comments,” said Novak.
Council member Heidi Omerza, who missed Tuesday’s meeting, had earlier pressed for the city to establish an official Facebook page to provide an official city source for information.
Some city departments, including the Ely police, have established a social media presence and some city council members have used their personal Facebook or Twitter accounts to pass on city-related information.
The policy would pertain only to official city social media accounts and would not regulate what council members or city staff post on their personal accounts.
Novak said “we don’t have to take any action at this point - we can get it back on the schedule for another discussion. I don’t think we have any immediate need to deal with it.”
The discussion came as part of a brief council session this week.
In other business, the council:
• Authorized the sale of business park property to Richard (Chip) Hanson for $1, after earlier council debate.
Hanson owns the Ely Veterinary Clinic and has leased the land for more than 20 years.
Members voted 5-1, with Paul Kess opposed.
• Approved a lease with Isaac Olson, who will be allowed to place antennas on the city water tower as part of a wireless internet initiative.
Clerk-treasurer Harold Langowski noted “this isn’t an exclusive right. If somebody else comes along and wants to put up another sort of antenna, they can do that.”
• Appointed Hannah Bermel to the city’s library board.
• Approved the purchase of a new Dodge truck for the police department from Mike Motors for just under $30,000. It will replace a 2007 Ford Expedition that has over 100,000 miles.