Karnes County Judge Barbara Shaw said she placed the item on the agenda because of the expense of repairing computers exposed to viruses.
Shaw said one server serves the county computers and Facebook comes through the county server.
“Those (viruses) also come from emails, are we going to be banned from email, as well?” asked County Clerk Carol Swize.
“I am not going to answer any more questions,” Shaw responded.
Chief Deputy Russell Swize told the court that Facebook has been an important tool that the sheriff’s office now uses to investigate and prosecute crimes.
“We need to allow it,” Swize said.
Shaw said a lot of counties allow law enforcement to use it through use of a separate server.
“It would probably be in the best interest at some point in time to get the sheriff’s office their own server,” Shaw said.
One county employee expressed concerns that if some web sites are blocked, it will make it much more difficult to accomplish all the tasks that their office needs to carry out.
“The county does not authorize Facebook,” Shaw said. “We are getting negative conflicters. We are spending thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars in virus protection because people are opening stuff they should not be opening.”
“That includes emails,” County Clerk Carol Swize responded. “Because we opened one from the listserver and it did the same thing. So are you going to block the listserve, as well?”
County Commissioner Pete Jauer said the topic was discussed at a recent Alamo Area Council of Governments meeting.
“All of them said, ‘We have it blocked.’ Facebook is blocked. Four other judges and one county commissioner,” Jauer said.
Swize said social media can be used as a tool to communicate information to the public in a wide variety of ways.
Shaw said the county’s web site should fill the role of communicating with the public, but county employees at the meeting said it is difficult to put things on the web site, when needed.
County Commissioner Shelby Dupnik said the county needs to form a policy regarding social media, but in the meantime, Facebook should be blocked from access from county computers.
“You can’t block everything because you don’t know what I need to do to run my office,” said County Treasurer Vi Malone.
Malone said her office is able to gather a great deal of information from Facebook and other sites that help the employees get their work done.
Commissioner James Rosales indicated that he supported letting the department heads decide how and if Facebook is used.
Dupnik made a motion to block Facebook until the county can put a social media policy in place.
Jauer seconded the motion, which carried unanimously on a 5-0 vote.