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July 15, 2014

Payne County Budget Board ponders social media policy

STILLWATER, Okla. — Payne County’s elected officials are considering a policy to govern social media use by their employees but aren’t sure what the policy can or should cover.

The process started at the request of District No. 2 Commissioner Chris Reding after a county employee posted complaints on his personal Facebook page that referred to Reding by his job title.

They were posted before the end of the work day although the employee has publicly maintained he posted them during his break and from a personal mobile device.

When Reding introduced the matter June 9, he said he was concerned about employees making statements that reflect poorly on the county or reduce public confidence.

Sheriff R.B. Hauf said he’s had to deal with his staff posting photos that could potentially influence criminal cases, so he’ll adopt a policy whether or not the rest of the county does.

County Clerk Glenna Craig suggested the county table the discussion and contact the Association of County Commissioners, its attorney and Assistant District Attorney Lowell Barto for guidance.

Several weeks later, Reding circulated three sample policies, including one obtained from ACCO that covered employee social media activity on work-provided and personal equipment, at work and during personal hours. ACCO’s attorney later said he only provided it as an example and the organization doesn’t recommend that policy because it’s too broad.

At Monday’s County Budget Board meeting, a body consisting of all elected county officials, Reding attempted to explain his thinking.

He said he’d been an outspoken young person who expressed his opinions passionately while serving as a conservative columnist for the The Daily O’Collegian at Oklahoma State University.

He said he continued to do so after joining the Oklahoma National Guard until a general explained that his writings had greater reach than he realized and the potential to affect public opinion of the military and its Commander-in-Chief. His words caused an air of dissension.

Reding said he learned that you have the right to say what you want but you also have a responsibility to take into account the affect your words will have on opinions of your organization.

“I’m trying to control the brand, not squelch freedom,” he said.

A majority of the board voted to schedule a special meeting to draft a policy based on one adopted by the State of Oklahoma and another developed by the Society of Human Resources Management.

Craig cast the lone dissenting vote.

“These are constitutional rights we’re talking about,” she said. “We have a good idea what we want, but is what we want legal?”

After producing a draft policy the Budget Board will send the policy it develops to Barto for his review and opinion.

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