Jefferson County eyes social media policy to allow department Facebook pages

PORT TOWNSEND — Jefferson County is looking at delving into social media, an effort its county administrator says is more complicated than one might think.

Jefferson County Administrator Philip Morley told the county Board of Health on Thursday the county is developing a social media policy that would allow the county and its departments to have Facebook pages.

“There is a draft under review,” he said. “It’ll happen.”

Currently departments are not allowed to have Facebook pages, he said. During the meeting, Jefferson County Public Health health educator Karen Obermeyer told the board having a Facebook page would be a cost effective way to spread news about events and campaign efforts.

As an example, she told the board that it costs about $142 for a staff member to hang a flyer up in Brinnon, after accounting for hours worked and miles traveled.

Spending two hours scheduling social media posts targeting specific audiences would cost about $73, she said.

Obermeyer said that many counties in the state use social media to reach their citizens.

Morley told her that a policy allowing that is in the works, but the county has to be sure it is complying with the state Public Records Act.

“Initially it was that we didn’t have the software to archive the records to meet our obligations,” he said. “We’ve been working in the last few months that will allow us to do social media archiving.”

Morley also said the county has to deal with online trolls or discussions about controversial topics getting out of hand.

“One of the things we explored is turning off the public comment function on social media sites so you wouldn’t necessarily have troll-like behavior … and so you don’t have to deal with trying to devote staff resources to counter misinformation on your government site,” he said.

He said it’s an issue the Public Health Department likely wouldn’t face because most of what it does is fairly non-controversial, but he believes the Board of County Commissioners, which sometimes makes controversial policy decisions, could be subject to that type of behavior.

He said the county would need to decide who manages social media accounts.

Commissioner David Sullivan echoed Morley’s concerns.

“We have so many different types of departments,” he said, citing the Juvenile Justice, Public Health and Department of Community Development, among others.

He said another concern is if elected officials begin to respond to people commenting on posts. Because there are only three commissioners, state law prohibits any two commissioners from communicating with each other without providing 24 hours notice.

“It’s one of those places where it seems like a good idea, but it’s a minefield,” Sullivan said.

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Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].

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