Immediately after the election, the social forum received negative posts directed at Mayor Joe Jerkins, prompting Austell’s webmaster to take down those comments and create restrictions for future use.
Duane Demeritt, the city’s webmaster and operations manager for the Public Works Department, said the political comments prompted city officials to come up with a social media policy.
Demeritt said he discussed the new online policy with Councilwoman Virginia Reagan, who has represented Ward 4 for 16 years, and they agreed a policy was needed for the Austell Facebook page.
“We don’t like to see downgrading of anybody, especially our mayor, council and city employees,” Demeritt said.
On Tuesday afternoon, Jerkins said he was not aware of any concerns over the city’s Facebook page.
“I didn’t have anything to do with it,” Jerkins said about the new Facebook commenting policy.
Former councilman Randy Green, who will face a runoff election Dec. 3 for Austell’s Ward 3 council seat, said he had not heard anything specific about negative Facebook posts, but did defend Jerkins.
“He has been a good mayor,” Green said. “He is not the kind of mayor that is going to brag about anything.”
Ann Turner, who serves on the Board of Variance and Appeals and is running in the Ward 3 race, said she has no idea how to get on or use Facebook.
Turner added that she feels Jerkins is putting Austell’s welfare “above any individuals.”
Austell’s city clerk, Carolyn Duncan, said her office did not have any input about the policy and she has not seen approval of the guidelines on any council agendas.
The policy page states, “The City of Austell encourages open communication with the public … to create an open discussion based on respectful dialogue and encourage helpful and useful comments.”
The policy states that comments should not contain abusive language, hate speech or offensive content, as well as personal or defamatory remarks about a person’s “thought processes or personality.”
“Comments should not endorse candidates or a particular stance on current ballot measures,” the guidelines state.
The city of Austell, through the webmaster, determines which comments are unacceptable and repeat violators can be banned from the Facebook page, the guidelines state.