Opinion

THE PUBLIC RECORD – FACEBOOK

The Wisconsin City/County Management Association (WCMA) defines two of the many duties of a Mayor with an Administrator form of government thusly:


-The mayor shall serve as the chief representative of the city in relations with the media.


-The mayor shall serve as the chief executive officer of the city, performing executive
responsibilities by monitoring the activities of the administrator and the various departments
of city government to see that city ordinances and state laws are enforced.

 

Prompted by a public comment during the Sturgeon Bay common council meeting on September 3, I looked at the City administered Facebook page. Posts and comments ran the gamut from excellent city department summaries such as those from the city engineer and other department heads, to anonymous “City of Sturgeon Bay,” responses in the comment section, to abusive and potentially libelous comments from individual citizens.

 

 

The City administrated Facebook page is an official city media publication and is also subject to open records request discovery, and the city is potentially liable to suffer legal and financial damages by allowing abusive and potentially slanderous and ill-informed public comments such as some of those comments allowed by the Sturgeon Bay FB page administrator in the August 23, 2019 West Side School
“informational,” update.

 


An extended comment containing the phrase “…The Friends of Sturgeon Bay and Sturgeon Bay Historical Society…” represents an unconscionable lack of mayoral and city administrator oversight and such an abusive comment hopefully would never be tolerated during common council public input, but it squarely puts the city at risk of being named as a willing party to future legal action.

 


And because that comment had been allowed to appear and to remain, nearing a second week so far, one assumes that the Mayor and the City Administrator totally miss the damage being done or simply agree or approve of the misinformation and self-interested, abusive attitude expressed by the commentator.

 


Commenting on Facebook requires submission to third-party terms and conditions that are
unacceptable to many and this creates a condition of literal discrimination against citizens unwilling to acquiesce to a third-party terms of service in order to participate on a city administered digital public forum.


With clear neglect of city monitoring of their own social media page and inherent discrimination against equal public participation with this social media platform, this reasonably amounts to failure of due diligence, potentially voiding city liability insurance coverage along with needlessly encouraging legal liability suits, also fostering the appearance of official partisan policy favoring certain comments, which is contrary to any actual public interest.

 


Thankfully, the good Alderwoman from the 4th has asked for an examination of current city policy regarding digital social media use. With regards to the Mayor’s campaign platform of furthering “civility,” sadly that plank is still floating somewhere out on Lake Michigan and inexcusably, the City Administrator appears “blues clueless,” to very crucial issues at hand putting the city in avoidable jeopardy.

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