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Mayor to be spokesman for town

Nancy Parsons
January 29, 2013

The News & Reporter
Great Falls Mayor Don Camp is the spokesman for town government. In the last couple of weeks, he has added additional duties to his role as mayor. He will now serve as the media contact for all town departments. Previously when the newspaper needed information regarding police matters, it contacted the police chief. If information on a fire was needed, we called the fire chief. This method of collecting information has been followed for almost 24 years. But it is has been changed.

The Great Falls Reporter was informed that all information regarding the police and fire departments will now come from the mayor. "So that you may get accurate information, I feel that it is best for you to contact the mayor of Great Falls in reference to all information request concerning the Great Falls Police Department and the Great Falls Fire Department. This is the process which the Town of Great Falls has adopted in the policy manual. The mayor of Great Falls may request a department head to speak with you about the matter, but the original request should go through him. He should be able to help you with all your concerns," a text message from Police Chief Steven Rice said.

When asked if he will now handle all media relations, Camp said he did not have a problem with the newspaper contacting the fire department or with "other ones" giving information but when told about the text message from the police chief, Camp said "If he said me, then I'll be the one." Camp said he is bound by town ordinance and he is not going to violate it. "If he chooses to go through me, I've got to do it," Camp added.

Camp said he will serve as the liaison for all media relations for the town. Camp referred to a section of the Town of Great Falls employee handbook approved by council on Dec. 20, 2010. "It is the policy of the Town of Great Falls for the mayor to be the primary media contact for the organization. If other staff members are more appropriate for a particular media discussion, the mayor must authorize as appropriate. It is the responsibility of the mayor to ensure that information disseminated about the Town of Great Falls to any media representative is accurate, timely and appropriate," the handbook said.

The procedure states that when a staff member receives a request from any media representative, the request must be forwarded to the mayor. If the mayor is unavailable to provide a response within one business day, the request must be forwarded to the town council. In this situation, the town council must consult the other available team members to determine the best person to be the backup spokesperson.

"When a media request is received, the mayor (or authorized person) should note the information being requested and gather the most accurate data needed to respond. If the request is for statistical information, the most recent statistics from the most credible source should be consulted. When a question is asked of the mayor or authorized person for which the answer is uncertain, the mayor/spokesperson should answer as such. All information disseminated should be as accurate as possible," the handbook said.

The handbook also states that all Freedom of Information Act requests must be stamped with the date of receipt and given immediately to the mayor. Camp and Town Attorney Brian Grier said the revision to the handbook in 2010 did not require a second reading because it is not an ordinance, it is an addition to the employee handbook. "It's not a big deal to make changes to a personnel policy," Camp said.

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