Postings are valuable form of communication, official says

By Dave Fidlin

Correspondent

In an effort to stay abreast of modern open records laws, Rochester officials plan to allocate $2,388 next year to ensure social media posts related to village business and sanctioned activities are properly archived.

Village Clerk Sandi Swan discussed the proposal, which primarily pertains to the municipality’s Facebook page, “Village of Rochester, WI,” at a Village Board meeting Nov. 11.

Plans call for enlisting the services of Durham, N.C.-based ArchiveSocial to back up all posts and comments left on the Facebook page. ArchiveSocial, the only firm to respond to the village’s bid request, submitted a monthly quote of $199 for the service.

Swan said Freedom of Information Act legislation requires municipalities with social media sites to archive all posts – even for seemingly mundane announcements, such as the date and time of trick-or-treat.

“Anything that is posted on there is subject to the open records law,” Swan said.

Trustee Chris Bennett said he backed the plan to archive the social media posts. From his vantage point, Bennett said the only other option would be forgoing a municipal-sanctioned Facebook page.

Bennett said Facebook and other outlets have been an important tool to share information quickly and efficiently.

One Facebook post, for example, in September notified residents of break-ins at eight homes within the Camelback Farms subdivision; it reached 72,562 people on the social media platform.

“In those rare instances when you have a significant event, maybe it makes sense,” Bennett said.

During the recent discussion, Rochester officials also combed through the village’s social media policy and how municipal staffers should conduct themselves.

One passage, under “oversight and enforcement,” for example, states, “Employees representing the agency (Rochester) through social media outlets or participating in social media features on agency websites must maintain a high level of ethical conduct and professional decorum.”