In the wake of Coun. Brenda Falk’s latest social media controversy, fellow Abbotsford councillors have been left scratching their heads about the rules regarding the city’s social media code of conduct.
The News asked Braun to clarify some of the details surrounding the city’s code of conduct and social media, but he has not responded to requests.
In the past, Falk had another Facebook page which was used for City of Abbotsford business, but she had not posted anything on that page in almost a year. That page was recently deleted after she removed herself from her slate last week. The link to the removed page can still be accessed through the contact us page under Falk’s name on the city of Abbotsford website.
The “Code of Responsible Conduct for Council Members”, which was created in 2019, states under point 8 (a) (1) that, “Council Members will: be truthful and honest in all matters and in all dealings with their elected colleagues, staff, members of the public, other community and local government stakeholders, the media, and through social media in their role as a representative of the city.”
Falk’s personal page identifies her as a councillor for the City of Abbotsford, and she also tags the official City of Abbotsford Facebook page as an employer. The News asked for clarification on whether that means she is acting a representative of the city on her page, but those inquiries were not replied to.
The City of Abbotsford “contact us” page does list social media links for several councillors and appears to link to several pages which could be considered personal in nature.
Couns. Kelly Chahal, Les Barkman, Patricia Ross and Sandy Blue are linked to personal Facebook pages. It’s not clear how or why these profiles are linked and Falk’s is not. It’s also unclear if these pages would fall under the code of conduct.
Ross told The News that she feels the code of conduct needs some additional coherence.
“I, too, would like some clarity,” she said. “We’d been told that the code of conduct was strictly for how we treat each other and staff while conducting city business, but the wording that you highlighted in your (previous) article seems to suggest otherwise. Thank you for reminding us of that. I don’t have the answer for you right now, but I do think we need to review it and get some clarity.”
She also stated that she also does have a politician page, but has been unable to delete it from Facebook. Ross added there may have been discussions related to the social media aspect of the code of conduct, but said reminders and clarity is needed. The page currently linked to her on the Abbotsford city page is a personal one.
Coun. Dave Loewen agreed that more conversations need to occur about social media and the code of conduct.
“My reasons for separate FB pages has been more about separating council-related posts from personal, although at times they do overlap,” he said. “Regardless of any lines of separation that may or may not exist between the two, in terms of accountability to the public, I always try to steer clear of posting viewpoints that may be open to interpretations not in my favour or in that of the council. That risk appears to be increasingly greater today than in the past. So back to your question, it certainly warrants more consideration and discussion at our end.”
Prior to being contacted for this article, Loewen did not have a Facebook link on the city’s “contact us” page. He then contacted staff to update his information with his councillor page. He also has a personal page