O
ne
Marion County
city is taking some heat for adopting a new social media policy, aimed at holding city employees accountable for what they say online.
South Pittsburg
recently passed the new resolution.
S
ome, including at least one city commissioner, say it
i
s an infringement on free speech.


T
he new resolution states the
C
ity of
South Pittsburg
has
"
an interest in cultivating and maintaining a positive presence on the internet
"
and that
i
s why it
i
s making all city employees sign an agreement saying they
wi
ll abide by the new social networking policy.


"T
he city administrators took a lot of verbal abuse and
I
don't know if it's on my part or what, but people were just unhappy
," says
South Pittsburg
commissioner Paul Don King.


K
ing has only been in office a week
and says while he was campaigning he saw some negativity about the city administration floating around online.


"
I
t was my first meeting.
I
went into it blind-sighted.
I
never knew what was coming."


H
e was the only commissioner
out of five
to vote against the city's new 'social networking policy.'


"I
just felt like freedom of speech was violated and
I
just thought on behalf of the city and the employees, that it wasn't a good policy
," says King.


T
he new four page policy says in part city employees
and volunteers
can be held personally liable for online commentary that is "defamatory, obscene, harassing, discriminatory or libelous by any offended party, not just the city."


"
I
was just against more or less someone trying to tell me what to say.
L
ike now,
I
'm talking to you.
I
'm probably the only person you'll get a hold of today
," says King.


C
hannel 3 reached out to
M
ayor
J
ane
D
awkins, who declined an on-camera interview.
B
ut she says other municipalities have similar policies.


C
ommissioner
J
eff
P
owers also told us by phone the use of social media by city employees and volunteers can pose risks to the city's confidential and proprietary information, as well as
its
reputation.


"
It
is a little sad that there's so much negativity out there, that they have to try to put a law in place saying, 'only say nice things
,
'"
says Kelly Coffman, who lives in
South Pittsburg
.


R
esidents like
C
offman say it will be interesting to see how the policy is enforced.


"
I
t seems like it would be a difficult thing to police what everyone's saying."


T
he new policy also requires that city employees report any violations or possible perceived violations and then the city will investigate.
P
ossible punishment includes termination.


Channel 3
checked with the
C
ity of
Chattanooga
.
I
t does not have a specific social media policy
but a 'code of ethics.'
A
spokesperson says
,
"
W
e expect city employees to act professionally, especially when they identify themselves as an employee."