Need help? Use phone, not Facebook

OKEECHOBEE — Community members who need help from county offices should call or email, not rely on social media posts, according to Okeechobee County Commission Chairman Terry Burroughs.

In recent weeks, the chairman said he received some complaints about residents about the neglect or abuse of animals. When he asked if they had reported the issues to the animal control office, “they say they did it on Facebook.” He said problems must be reported to the appropriate county office by telephone or by email.

“If you are just sending some message out on Facebook, that is not going to help,” said Chairman Burroughs. “These people have got to learn there is a process by which they can get their issue resolved. You’ve got to pick up the phone and you’ve got to call somebody.”

He said community members who report a problem should note the date the call was made, the name of the person they spoke to and what they said, so that if the issue is not resolved they have a record of the call.

This gives the county some mechanism to follow up, he explained.

Commissioner Kelly Owens said she always tells residents in her district to call or email.

“My personal Facebook page has a disclaimer with information on how to contact me,” she said. If there is an issue in my district that is showing on Facebook, reach out to me via phone or email. Any time a citizen in my district has reached out to me via phone or email it has been addressed.

“I am not sitting at home scanning Facebook for issues happening in my district,” she continued.

“Throwing it out there on Facebook might make people feel better,” but it doesn’t solve the problem, she added. “Call me or email me.”

Commissioner Bryant Culpepper said some people use Facebook with an alias.

“They use it for anonymity,” he said. “They go on there because that is their comfort zone.”

“It is not to me an appropriate way to communicate with me, a county commissioner, about an issue,” said Commissioner Owens. “I don’t look at it (Facebook) every day. It might be a month before I see it. I might not see it all. From a public record standpoint it is not appropriate. It’s just not a feasible way for me to do business,” she said. “I am easily available through phone or email. There is not a single constituent who has reached me through the appropriate public record method who has not had a response from me.”

She said social media posts by elected officials could also raise Government in the Sunshine Law issues. “When we have more than one commissioner commenting on a page or a post, you are treading a very fine line,” she said.

The phone number for Okeechobee County Animal Control is 863-357-3225. The non-emergency number for the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office is 863-763-3117.

Contact numbers and email addresses for county commissioners (published in the Explore Okeechobee community guide) are:
• District 1, David Hazellief: 863-610-1553, dhazellief@co.okeechobee.fl.us;
• District 2, Bryant Culpepper: 863-801-4097, bculpepper@co.okeechobee.fl.us;
• District 3, Brad Goodbread, 863-634-2121, bgoodbread@co.okeechobee.fl.us;
• District 4, Terry Burroughs, 863-697-6325, tburroughs@co.okeechobee.fl.us;
• District 5, Kelly Owens, 863-532-9006, kowens@co.okeechobee.fl.us.

Publisher/Editor Katrina Elsken can be reached at kelsken@newszap.com

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