Trustees raise concerns on village social media policy

By on November 7, 2013

ELBURN—Village Board members and staff on Monday raised concerns regarding the village’s social media policy for its employees.

The policy was added to the village’s employee personnel policy manual during the past year, and came up for discussion during an annual review of the updates.

Trustee Jeff Walter wanted to know if the policy applied to board members and other elected officials.

One restriction in particular that troubled him was one in which employees were prohibited from identifying their employer.

Walter said that he uses his Facebook page to campaign for re-election.

“When my Facebook page says ‘Re-elect Jeff Walter, village trustee,’ I’m identifying myself as an employee of the village,” Walter said.

Trustee Dave Gualdoni said he wondered about the legality of the restriction.

“It seems to me it violates First Amendment rights,” he said.

Public Works Superintendent John Nevenhoven said that the purpose of his LinkedIn account was to network.

“I can’t tell people I work here?” he asked. “That’s the whole purpose (of LinkedIn).”

While Walter said he didn’t think the village would want to prevent employees from posting positive images of the village, Village Attorney Bob Britz said the policy is to “control the not-so-positive images.”

Village Administrator Erin Willrett said the intent of the policy is to prevent employees from discrediting the village. She said that there have been no issues with the policy since it was implemented last November.

Britz explained that the policy, while not perfect, lets everyone know what is expected, and any disciplinary action would therefore not be seen as “arbitrary and capricious.”

He said he is very sensitive about First Amendment rights, but that it was necessary for the village to have some type of policy in place.

Village President Dave Anderson said he didn’t think that the policy applied to board members and other elected officials.

“Representing the village (as an elected official) is one thing; working for the village is another,” Anderson said.

Anderson asked board members to send their comments and concerns to Willrett for a follow-up discussion.

“I don’t want to get into something like a ‘Code Napoleon,’ where everything is forbidden unless expressly permitted,” trustee Bill Grabarek said.