New mobile policy clears county board

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In an effort to keep up with technology in the workplace, county commissioners approved a mobile device policy, that will affect most Person County employees as well as elected officials.

At an April 1 meeting, the board approved the policy in a 3-1 vote after tabling it at a March meeting for further discussion over separating business uses from personal uses on a mobile device.

The new policy will require most county employees to transition from using their personal device to using a county-issued phone to conduct county business.

The program will also cover the county’s five elected commissioners, who will each be issued a county-owned cell phone. Including commissioners in the program was among the questions board members had when the policy was first proposed. Commissioners Jimmy Clayton and Ray Jeffers questioned whether they would need to carry two cellphones – one for personal use and one for county use. Jeffers said it was unlikely people would call him on the new phone, because his existing personal phone number is already widely distributed. County Manager Heidi York told commissioners in March that it could mean that people covered under the policy have to carry two cellphones. She admitted that idea was not popular with employees, but she reiterated that the policy would be good for business in helping to protect county resources and employees’ right to privacy.

“We are modeling this after best practices, to help us manage the mobile devices better, preserve public information (and) protect individual privacy rights,” said York.

Some county employees who use their personal phones to conduct day-to-day business currently receive a stipend.

The county spends about $121,000 per year in stipend payments, but the transition from stipend-based to government-owned phones could have a financial impact.

“As we went through to evaluate the business use for each position we have added approximately 25 additional users who are already using their cell phone to conduct business and the laws will require they be compensated for doing so,” said York.

The additional users would increase the price by an estimated $20,000, setting the county’s projected payout at approximately $144,000 annually, including nearly 200 users.

Despite their questions, Clayton and Jeffers voted to adopt the new policy. Commissioner Gordon Powell cast the lone vote against the measure.

The policy’s standard procedure will establish ground rules not only for using county-issued cell phones but tablets and other mobile devices.

The policy is expected to take effect July 1.

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