MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCSC) - Next month, Mount Pleasant Town Council is expected to consider an update to its Code of Conduct that includes the addition of a social media policy to encourage civil behavior in the manner that town council members communicate with others.
On Tuesday, Mount Pleasant council member Guang Ming Whitley posted on Facebook that she and Mayor, Will Haynie, were discussing “the difficult dynamics between some on Town Council and the acrimony evident on social media.”
Whitley says she suggested an update to the Code of Conduct to include a social media policy to prevent elected officials from making negative comments about others.
"There's a tone that's been set for what's acceptable in a public discourse and I disagree with that tone so I want to have a social medial policy with a censure provision."
However, signing the Code of Conduct is optional.
Council member Joe Bustos says he didn't sign the original code.
He says if he was going to sign it, it needed to be enforced.
"I think it's sad commentary that we have to have a Code of Conduct to say adults should act like adults," Bustos said. "We've had some unfortunate things happen on social media, we had council members call constituents and some residents in Mount Pleasant vulgar names and its just gotten a little out of hand."
Bustos says he tried to address these concerns at an earlier time, but he says it didn't have the support of council at the time.
"I said it would get worse and it did," Bustos said.
Whitley says council members should have consequences for inappropriate actions.
“If a council member uses an obscenity against a staff member, or a constituent or a fellow council member, I want that to be immediately on the agenda,” Whitley said. “I want there to be a public censure of that council member, it needs to be more than a slap on the wrist.”
That could include the public reprimand of a public official for inappropriate conduct.
Some people who live in Mount Pleasant says the policy would need to be worded carefully to not infringe on First Amendment rights.
“First Amendment rights to freedom of speech do not mean freedom from consequences of that speech,” Whitley says.
The social media policy is expected to be discussed on Nov. 4 at the Police, Legal and Judicial Committee meeting.
It will then have to get council approval before it goes into effect.
“There’s been other examples of folks just putting out misinformation to slant it against their political opponents,” Whitley said. “We’re all in this together and I honestly do believe that every member of town council wants what’s best for Mount Pleasant. We just have to work together on a shared vision to get there.”
Council members shared their concern about comments said to be made by council member Kevin Cunnane.
“Clearly, the mayor is intent on trying to control what people say and also the news cycle,” Cunnane wrote. “If he focused on governing instead the town would be better off.”
Cunnane also said the root cause of the problem on council is hardly one word.