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Commissioners discuss Facebook, email etiquette
Stotts sheriff
Warren County Commissioner Joseph Stotts met with Nashville Sheriff Daron Hall to discuss how Davidson County has developed programs for mentally ill inmates, or those with substance abuse issues, to learn how to implement those strategies at Warren County Jail.

Warren County commissioners are expressing concerns about their government email accounts being used inappropriately to disperse Facebook posts and personal comments. 

“I don’t like to give attention to things that are negative,” said Commissioner Joseph Stotts. “To me, that breeds more negativity. I will say that I don’t think it’s appropriate for Facebook posts on a county email. I don’t think it benefits anyone at all. I think it breeds divisiveness. I don’t think it’s appropriate.”

Those concerns were expressed to the county Legislative Committee when it met to continue reviewing and revising a policy regarding rules of the Warren County Legislative Body. 

All commissioners have email accounts. Those were established to conduct county government business. 

The accounts allow commissioners to receive notice of upcoming meetings, minutes of previously held meetings, measures under consideration, and more.

Committee members discussed the need to include restrictions outlining commissioner conduct and what can be sent using government email accounts. 

“Joseph called me and we talked about this the other day,” said Commissioner Carlene Brown. “We had an extensive policy in city government called the electronics tools policy, a very detailed policy about how people used the city’s email accounts. I talked this over with Jimmy (Haley). He’s well aware that we need to have a policy on how to use our Gmail accounts.”

Brown added, “Our Gmail accounts are for doing government business. We should not be in there writing our personal thoughts. Our personal feelings. You shouldn’t be answering them back either. Then it turns into a Facebook situation.”

Stotts stated, “It doesn’t solve anything to do that.” 

“It has been misused more than once,” said Brown. “We really need to make sure everyone knows that is not a professional way to use the accounts. … Also, be cautious and professional on Facebook when it relates to government business.”

Facebook has become an area of contention between commissioners. During a Legislative Committee meeting in September 2019, Commissioner Carl D. Bouldin attempted to address what he called “verbally trashing people” on Facebook and the need for a code of conduct for commissioners to follow.

While he didn’t name anyone specifically, Commissioner Deborah Evans was quick to defend herself. 

“Then you are going to have a lawsuit for my First Amendment right, because I know you’re directing that at me,” said Evans. 

Bouldin stated that Evans’ comments on Facebook about other commissioners border on defamation, while Evans defended her actions as protected under freedom of speech. 

After the Feb. 18 meeting of the Warren County Commission, Evans posted on Facebook a narrative of that meeting. That posting was also sent to other commissioners via the county’s business emails. 

Secretaries are assigned to provide an objective report on what business occurs during meetings. Stotts says meeting minutes sent to commissioners should not contain personal opinions. 

Committee members agreed to consider amending the document later to include guidelines for commissioner conduct and how the county’s Gmail accounts should be used.