I saw in the El Paso Times today that a group is holding a day long "ethics training" for anyone who wants to attend in El Paso HERE. Couldn't hurt for all local officials to attend.
I take that back - given they've all figured out how to circumvent the system, why bother? You can't get an open records report back on a conversation had at the water cooler.
Jaime Abeytia and Martian Paredes have become odd bedfellows in the fight against the El Paso Police Department twitter feed. They are screaming about "first amendment rights" and open records laws and all I can do is laugh at the ignorance of both. My only hope is that some local politician picks up the torch for them and gets smacked down by the city attorney. History has shown that stupid is contagious.
I looked at the Twitter feed HERE and it's pretty much what you'd expect - traffic updates, press releases on recent crimes and feel good cops and community posts. The police department is not forced by law to maintain a twitter account. It's a matter of communication convenience in an age where people can plan their route home from work via social media posts about accidents and such. They could shut it down at any moment without recourse.
Abeytia claims he has a right to post questions on the police department's feed - a first amendment right! He does not. You have no first amendment rights when it comes to Twitter the company who owns the application nor the users who have Twitter accounts. A simple reading of the "Terms of Service" or TOS let's you know where you stand. That goes for accounts run by government as well. I challenge anyone to go find a lawyer who can get more than five minutes into the issue in front of an actual judge before they are punted out of the room.
Martian Paredes claims banning him from seeing the twitter feed is a violation of open records laws. That's funny.
The Texas Public Information Act was updated in 2013 to address social media. Most of that language is aimed at elected officials communicated official business through social media and how they must handle records retention. There is an article about a 2015 conference held on the subject of social media and records retention HERE.
If you read, you'll see that nobody is guaranteed access to a government Twitter or Facebook channel. What they are promised is that if they make an open records request for information posted on those channels, it must be produced. More importantly - you're not guaranteed a license to comment on those posts.
Abeytia and Paredes both have access to the Twitter feed if they simply logout of their respective accounts and search for the EPPD feed. Their access to read is not blocked. Their ability to spam their Twitter feed has been blocked. If you'll notice, the EPPD feed has no posts from citizens on it. It's just the EPPD giving information and retweeting other police departments, TxDOT and relevant news sources. It would seem it's not a place where two way discussion are their intention. And because they don't want erroneous information on their channel, they don't let people like Abeytia and Paredes spam their feed. It makes complete sense to anyone with half a brain.
If either of these two guys had simply submitted an inquiry via firstname.lastname@example.org (listed on their website), they could have had their questions answered. Nope, they had to play political antagonists on the EPPD's information feed in order to try and prove a point. They lost. They used the wrong forum for bitching about city employees. You'd have to be rather dense to think EPPD officers are going to engage bloggers in a current events argument on their Twitter feed that is not used for that purpose. The same way a an EPPD spokesperson doesn't have to answer your questions on the Chief's political views during a press conference for DWI accidents in El Paso.
You have no first amendment right to comment on the medium for which government communicates information. For example - you can't set up your own TV frequency and broadcast - same goes with radio. You can't speak on emergency channels or call 911 to say you hate the chief of police.
What you can do is stand on a public sidewalk and whine and cry about whatever you want. I suggest these guys take their whining and crying to the streets and see how they fare. Cops are being murdered on a weekly basis in cold blood and they want to bitch about their right to make pithy comments to some Twitter feed - I'm sure everyone is going to feel sorry for them.