Council Discusses Social Media Decorum

By Teresa Barbian

 

The Anson City Council met for a special called meeting on Monday, February 6, 2017 at the Anson Public Library. There were three items on the agenda. The first agenda item was to discuss and take action on a complaint against a city employee and deliberate the employment, evaluation, reassignment, duties, discipline, or dismissal of an employee, namely the Chief of Police. The council chose to go into executive session as pursuant to Texas government code 551.074. When the council reconvened, they stated that there would be no action at this time since no formal written complaint was received. Sources said that the complaint in question was one that was presented in a citizen presentation to the council in a prior council meeting.

The next agenda item was to discuss recent resignations of members of the Anson Police Department. Officer Caleb Hodges is resigning effective February 15th. Officer David Sanchez also put in his resignation but indicated that he is actively pursuing other employment and that he would stay until another officer was hired or he gains other employment. Chief Moore indicated that there has been a job posting on the TML website since December, but they have received no inquiries for the position. Chief Moore also said that it is hard to get officers to come to Anson because, “Anson is not a glamorous place to work” and that the pay for a police officer is not great. Moore also stated, “When you don’t have the support of council, it demoralizes the officers.” No action was taken because this issue was only brought to the council to gather ideas on how to recruit new officers.

The last agenda item was to discuss and take action on a resolution setting guidelines for decorum of city council members and mayor in use of social media. Resolution #020617 indicates in part, “The Mayor and City Council agree to not speak negatively regarding any public employee or Council Member or Mayor through social media and other forms of public communication. It is not the desire of the Mayor and the City Council to create a public forum for the demeaning of any individual or group. Neither is it the intention of the Mayor and City Council to insult the honesty and/or integrity of any city employee, the City Council as a body, or any member or members of the City Council, individually or collectively. Accordingly, any insulting language, or language that is otherwise negatively directed toward an employee of the City or members of the City Council is discouraged.” This resolution is essentially a pledge for each council member to sign.

 

A heated discussion between the Chief of Police and Councilwoman Jeannie Free ensued over whether or not the Facebook pages from Free’s Facebook account, that were presented to the council, made disparaging remarks against members of the Anson Police Department. The council was also presented a letter from Officer Michael Prado from the Anson Police Department, which he wrote to his supervisor Chief David Moore, accusing Free and Councilwoman Linda Powell of creating a hostile work environment and the comments (that were made on Facebook) that they made were offensive and degrading. He also accused Katy Moncrief, a dispatcher for the Jones County Sheriff’s Office and girlfriend of Mayor Sara Alfaro of also making disparaging comments about him. One of Free’s comments on her Facebook page stated, “I’m sitting in my driveway!!!! I swear I smell bacon!!!” and “Must have been a pig in heat!” Prado stated in his letter that he lives three houses north of Free and that these terms commonly refer to police officers. Free stated that others have taken her comments out of context. “We should all refrain from throwing stones,” said Councilwoman Evelyn Edwards and Mayor Sara Alfaro stated, “We should be grown-ups and move on.” Councilman Keith Gilbert moved to approve resolution #020617 and Evelyn Edward seconded the motion. All the other council members and the Mayor agreed to the resolution except Councilwoman Jeannie Free who voted “No”. The council meeting was then adjourned.

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