Selectmen talk city social media policy, iPads

Staff Writer

West Point city employees may soon have some guidelines for use of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other forms of social media.

"If we are going to participate in social media, if we are going to use it, then we have to have a policy to control it," Mayor Robbie Robinson told Selectmen in presenting them a proposed policy modeled after one in use in Columbus.

City employees and Selectmen raised questions about specifics and potential punishments, questions that will be addressed before the policy is considered again next month.
City Attorney Orlando Richmond has reviewed and signed off on the current version.

The policy applies to personal and city-managed social media sites and particularly warns emergency responders their conduct on those sites can be detrimental or damaging to the city because they come into frequent contact with the public.

Assistant Police Chief Kennedy Meador asked about how discipline is addressed in the policy. But city leaders said the policy sets standards and each department head addresses violations and discipline based on the situation, their department and their own internal rules.

That's the way Columbus handles discipline and police officers can face harsher punishment than public works employees. Columbus penalties have ranged from three-day suspensions to termination, depending on the infraction.
Meador noted the West Point Police Department has a matrix that outlines discipline for policy violations and that matrix could be integrated with the social media policy.

"The policy lists discipline as 'up to termination,'" Robinson said. "It is designed to leave department heads flexibility within their own departments."

Meanwhile, some Selectmen soon will have new city-issued iPads after city IT Director Edgar Harris said it would cost about $500 each to outfit each office holder.

Laptops would cost about $1,200, he said.

"Everyone does basically the same thing," Harris told Selectmen, referring to his survey of how other cities handle technology and data-storage issues for their elected officials.

"Basically we can start scanning and e-mailing everyone their packages and support information now. When we get everyone iPads, we will do that and it will be up to each person to decide how they want to store the information on their device," Harris explained, noting Columbus also has an elaborate system of desktop computers connected to a central server accessed by Council members, the mayor, and the city attorney during meetings.

"And in each town we talked to, if he person forgets their device and shows up without it, they just have to do without," Harris added, noting the city plans to purchase the iPad Air 2 model.
Those are the same devices used by the board at North Mississippi Medical Center-West Point.

Selectmen William Binder, Ken Poole and Jasper Pittman all said they wanted the devices. Selectmen Leta Turner and Keith McBrayer said he would stick with the current system of getting paper copies of agendas and related materials.

Turner also asked Harris to make sure the devices are data compatible, which will require some form of wi-fi access.

Selectmen started considering the issue last month after Poole, Turner and Pittman complained about the large amount of paper they get each month as part of their agendas.

McBrayer, who also is a member of the board's Finance Committee, said the devices could be paid for out of the city's City Hall account.