The Yardley Borough Council approved two social media policies at its Nov. 15 meeting, one for paid borough staff and the other for elected or appointed officials.
Both policies were approved 5-0. Council members John McCann and Matt Ross were unable to attend the meeting.
The policies were approved while a federal lawsuit against the borough and some of its officials filed by resident Earl Markey is still pending. He sued Yardley after this post on the borough Facebook page urging a yes vote on an Election Day referendum to reduce the size of council was deleted. The post was restored soon afterward and the referendum was voted down.
Council President Caroline Thompson, who wrote the initial drafts of both policies and then refined them based on recommendations from fellow council members, declined to comment on whether the policies were prompted by the Markey lawsuit.
“We wanted to adopt one (social media policy) to ensure that social media matters are handled to a standard agreed upon by Council,” Thompson wrote in an email to The Herald. “The policy covers everything from best practices to what is legally permissible. I believe it protects the borough and protects the public.”
The policies have guidelines for borough staff and elected officials on what is appropriate to post to both their personal and borough social media accounts. Both policies prohibit any posts or comments that have “vulgar or obscene language; threats of harm; false, misleading or deceptive media” or meet several other conditions.
The staff policy on posting to borough social media platforms and the website states that the “sole purpose of this site is to provide information concerning Yardley Borough to its many residents, businesses and visitors. To that end, the borough has disabled the ability to comment to the extent permitted by a particular social media platform.”
It further states the borough “will not edit or otherwise modify any content posted by a user on any social media platform where the borough is unable to disable the comment functioning.”
The borough can remove comments that use “vulgar or obscene language, contain threats of harm” or meet other specified criteria for being inappropriate.
Among many provisions in the elected officials’ policy is one that states that when posting opinions, they should make it clear the opinion is strictly their own and doesn’t represent the borough.
Posts considered to be in potential violation of the policies will be flagged by Borough Manager Paula Johnson or her designee and/or Thompson and, if necessary, brought before the entire council.
In other news from the Nov. 15 meeting, the borough received a plaque from Federal Emergency Management Agency official Bob Cobelli and Audrey Kenny from Bucks County Emergency Services. The award commends the borough for its floodplain management practices including elevation of buildings, maintenance of open space and education programs.
Among other advantages, the award gives borough residents required to have flood insurance a 10% discount.