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Hillsboro police in hot water over Facebook post on ballot measure

HILLSBORO, Mo. - Hillsboro Mayor Joe Phillips says the Facebook posting was simply an honest mistake, posted by someone who didn’t have an idea of election rules.

The post on the Hillsboro Police Department's Facebook page is causing some confusion.

They seemingly come off as harmless - promoting a ballot issue in Tuesday’s election. But in reality, it could land the department in hot water.

“You got to watch what you put on social media,” Hillsboro voter Mike Wattle said.

The Facebook post encourages Hillsboro voters to check "Yes" on Prop E – the measure that would increase the city’s sales tax by 1.875 percent.

The proceeds would 100 percent go towards the Hillsboro Police Department beginning in 2019, leading to the hiring of new officers and some needed repairs.

It’s everything the department would want to promote, but according to Missouri Ethics code, they simply cannot.

“Social media that’s how people use social media nowadays so it goes both ways, just be careful what you say,” Wattle said. “Just make sure it’s not a conflict of interest.”

Missouri Ethics Commission Chapter 155, Section 115.646 says:

“No contribution or expenditure of public funds shall be made directly by any officer, employee or agent of any political subdivision to advocate, support, or oppose any ballot measure or candidate for public office. This section shall not be construed to prohibit any public official of a political subdivision from making public appearances or from issuing press releases concerning any such ballot measure.”

Therefore, Hillsboro police Facebook post is in violation.

Voters, on the other hand, say they recognize why the department made the post.

“I can kind of understand that because if I was still in law enforcement,” voter Rick Hanna said. “I’d be telling everybody to vote yes for it also.”

Hillsboro Mayor Joe Phillips released this statement on the matter saying:

“Once the Facebook post was reported to City Officials, we asked that the page be temporarily suspended. The page in question was started and administered by a City employee, who did not realize the post would be in violation of Missouri Ethics rules. The City of Hillsboro will put together information for our Staff and Elected Officials, better explaining the do's and dont's of social media, in regards to ballot measures affecting our City.”