Thursday, July 30, 2015

Research Q of the Week: You Can’t Put That on the City’s Website (7/30/15)

Question: Should I be linking to city council candidate websites from the city's website? Are there actually rules about what goes on the website in the first place?

Answer: State law provides that the purpose of city websites and publications is to provide information about the city’s duties and jurisdiction or to help people access city services and information. So no cat memes—sorry. To your question, political campaign or party links are also a no-go. Here's the list of prohibited and permitted items listed in law:

Just say no to ...
•    Links to any blog or website maintained by a candidate, political committee, political party, principal campaign committee, or state committee.
•    Pictures or other materials that tend to attribute the website or publication to an individual or group of individuals instead of to the city.
•    The words “with the compliments of” or letters of personal greeting that promote elected or appointed city officials.

Give the 'all clear' to ...
•    Biographical information about elected and appointed city officials, a single official photo of city officials, and photos of city officials performing functions relating to their office.
•    Photos, webcasts, archives of webcasts, and audio and video files that facilitate access to city information or services or inform the public about the duties and obligations of city offices or that are intended to promote trade or tourism.
•    Press releases, proposals, policy positions, and other information directly related to the city’s legal functions, duties, and jurisdiction.

Make note: the list of permitted content is not comprehensive, meaning any content that meets the purpose described above and that is not specifically prohibited is also allowed. So follow these basic rules and do what's right for your community when you put on your webmaster hat.

Written by Susan Naughton, research attorney with the League of Minnesota Cities. Contact: snaughto@lmc.org or (651) 281-1232.

This blog post conveys general information. It’s not legal advice. Please check with your city attorney before acting on this information.

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