The worldwide explosion of social media like Facebook and Twitter in recent years gives rise to some interesting questions about what is and isn’t appropriate for politicians and other public servants who use these platforms while on the job.
On one level, it’s obviously no big deal. If House Speaker Thom Tillis sends out a tweet during a legislative day promoting some House policy initiative, it’s really no different than if his staff sends out a press release. Especially in light of the fact that Tillis’ (and Governor Perdue’s) tweets are almost certainly authored by staff, it really doesn’t raise any issues that I can see. In fact, kudos to them for at least attempting to inform the public.
But what about some other situations? What if Tillis or Perdue sends out a campaign-related announcement on their Twitter account on a workday? That would seem to necessitate some care on their part so that we can be assured that public funds are not being used to compensate someone for such time.
And then there’s the situation in which officials and their staffers are sending out tweets or posting comments on Facebook or blogs that are mostly or completely unrelated to their jobs. For instance, during the legislative session, it was not hard to find examples of legislative staffers who were tweeting up a storm during the workday about a wide variety of non-legislative matters.
At times, it seemed that Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger’s Chief of Staff Jim Blaine kept (keeps) up an almost running account of his life and general impressions of the world. Does Berger really employ him to do this? Does Blaine go off the clock every time he posts a comment about the Supreme Court’s health care decision, politics in general or baseball? A lot of his tweets are posted on weekends, but many, many show up during work hours.
And then there’s Berger’s son, Rockingham County District Attorney Phil Berger Jr. (that’s him pictured above). Though the younger Berger is presumably a very busy man who spends lots and lots of working hours putting all sorts of criminals behind bars, the man is also a busy tweeter.
Today (Monday), for instance, he’s already told the world about his views on fracking (he likes it) and re-tweeted a comment from an ultra-conservative retired sailor from Washington state. At other times on recent workdays, he’s found time to tell us about the national debt, Larry Kissell’s voting record, unemployment and repeatedly attack President Obama.
So, what’s the deal with this? Are things really running so efficiently in the Rockingham County criminal justice system that Phil Jr. has that much time on his hands? Hopefully, Junior is going off the clock every time he posts one of these tweets, but if that’s so, he must have a very interesting and complex set of time records each week.