By: Angela C. Wetherby
In today’s world of ever-changing technology and the rampant use of social media, local governments should be especially cognizant of the way in which government representatives communicate outside of a public setting. While social media presents a new way for municipalities to communicate with members of the community, it also raises some serious concerns. For example, would it be appropriate for a group of municipal representatives to participate in a closed Facebook group? The Open Meetings Act (“OMA”) generally requires that the deliberation and formulation of public policy and decisions regarding public policy be conducted at meetings that are open to the public. The statute specifically requires that whenever representatives of a public body convene in order to deliberate or discuss a decision regarding public policy, then this meeting must be conducted in a place that is available to the general public. While OMA states that its restrictions do not necessarily apply to purely social or chance gatherings of government representatives, forming a closed group on social media specifically for purposes of connecting with other municipal representatives would arguably violate the spirit of the law.
In light of the new concerns created by social media and its apparent impact on local government, it is important that each municipality seriously consider adopting its own written policy regarding the use of social media by its employees and representatives. It is imperative that local governments consult with an attorney for purposes of learning more about taking advantage of the benefits that the various social media platforms may have to offer, while at the same time making sure that there is a plan in place to avoid potential liability.
This website and the contents thereof is designed for general information only and information should not be considered as formal legal advice nor the formation of an attorney/client relationship. The purpose of this post is to provide a brief and cursory overview of the subject matter contained herein. It is important to consult with an attorney as there are various other implications that should be taken into consideration when it comes to issues surrounding the Open Meetings Act.
If you have any questions regarding regarding this blog post, please contact Inosencio & Fisk, PLLC, at (517) 796-1444.