Sopchoppy adopts social media policy

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By Lucy Carter, News Correspondent

“I’ve never seen so many people in a city commission meeting,” remarked Mayor Lara Edwards about the crowd at the Sopchoppy City Hall.
It was standing-room-only at the city commission meeting on Monday, June 12.
The rousing issue? A proposed social media policy for City of Sopchoppy staff and employees, and a larger question of free speech and professional accountability, particularly regarding the personal Facebook pages of City Commissioner Becton Roddenberry.
Commissioner Roddenberry has been criticized for his digital decorum in the past, with a profile that continues to offer colorful posts about his political and religious views.
Though he initially created a professional Facebook page for his seat as a city commissioner, with over 2,900 Facebook friends, Roddenberry commented that his personal platform offers a way for citizens to be in touch. “I feel like I can reach the public more on my personal page.”
Still, citizens and city officials expressed concern that Roddenberry is sending the wrong message about the City of Sopchoppy.
Martha Evans, a Sopchoppy resident and former City Commissioner, addressed Roddenberry directly in the meeting, saying: “This issue with social media has been an embarrassment for the city. You are a face of this city, and you represent the citizens of the city.”
“Becton Roddenberry is who he is,” said Steve Cushman, a supporter of Roddenberry.
The sentiment was echoed by Greg Marr Jr., the radio personality known as “Junior” on Freedom 93 who was the online “host” of a Facebook “Stand with Becton” event, urging Wakulla County citizens to attend the Monday night meeting to show support for Roddenberry.
“We like transparency,” said Marr. “As I understand it, he’s not speaking for the entire commission.”
Tim Caldwell of Panacea was armed with “Free Becton” yard signs that were sprinkled around the flag posts of City Hall.
Caldwell commented that political correctness “is what is ruining a lot of things around here… The people who vote (elected officials) in will be the deciders.”
The city commission adopted the social media policy in a unanimous 5-0 vote, with Roddenberry making the motion to approve it.
Roddenberry said that he felt the policy had “free speech protections” that he could support.
According to Mayor Lara Edwards, the policy borrows heavily from the Wakulla County government’s social media policy. Stated in both policies: “The City (or County) takes no position on employees’ decision to participate in the use of social media networks. In general, employees who participate in social media are free to publish personal information without censorship by the City.
Sopchoppy’s Social Media Policy prohibits employees “from sharing any communication that engages in personal or sexual harassment, unfounded accusations, or remarks that could contribute to a hostile work environment (racial, sexual, religious, etc.), as well as any behavior not in agreement with the City’s other policies and objectives.”
City Commissioner Nathan Lewis stressed that he wanted the policy to apply equally to staff and commissioners.
Sopchoppy City Commissioner Glenn Rudd, who has long been a vocal critic of Roddenberry’s Facebook posts, expressed concern that there was no punishment laid out for violating the policy.
City Attorney Dan Cox answered that, for employees, it could range anywhere from counseling to dismissal. For commissioners, as elected officials, the other members could vote to censure a member who violated the policy – but ultimately, city commissioners would have to answer to the ballot box.
Hearing that, Rudd called the policy “a waste of a piece of paper,” but seemed to shift his opinion once Commissioner Fred Nichols replied, “We need this – this is for the city, Glenn.”
“This has been a dog and pony show for a month and a half,” Rudd said.
“I agree,” said Commissioner Lewis.
From the audience, city resident and artist Nell McCall called out: “A month and a half? Two years!”