in Houston, Texas
Corpus Christi city attorney cautions officials against texting in meetings
Friday, Sep 10, 2010, 10:50AM CST
By Mark Lisheron

Watch out, Corpus Christi, or you might need to change your stirring and original city slogan, "A great place to live, work and play," to "Petri Dish of the Texas Open Meetings Act."

This time it was City Attorney Carlos Valdez trying to paint a gray area black-and-white, when he issued a memo to City Council members warning them that sending text messages to one another during meetings could be interpreted as a violation of the state's open meetings law, according to a story in the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.


It seems a couple of City Council members couldn't confine their disagreement over texting to their cellphones and began to argue about it during a recent council discussion session, prompting the memo from Valdez.

texting

The issue of whether private conversations between elected officials through texting and tweeting is considered illegal deliberation has gotten the attention of the state legislature.

State law doesn't include the two T-words, and no government entity in Corpus Christi or Nueces County has a policy addressing them, but as Valdez said in his memo, if passing notes and exchanging e-mails during meetings is forbidden, texts and tweets should be, too.


"If they're texting each other, that's a violation of the Open Meetings Act," Joe Larsen, a director with the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas, told the newspaper. "They're actually deliberating in private. They might as well stand up and go in a private room."


Clearly, Corpus Christi intends to be the leader in what might be termed experimental open meetings law. You might recall that last month Port Corpus Christi pioneered a brand-new field of Matrix or Dry-Erase Law. The Caller-Times complained that a port committee had violated the Texas Public Information Act by creating a matrix of information about five corporate bidders on a dry-erase board during meetings to discuss the companies, then erasing the board, destroying, the paper contended, a public document.

Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or mark@texaswatchdog.org.

Photo of someone using a smartphone by flickr user ydhsu, used via a Creative Commons license.

Comments
Jaime
Thursday, 02/17/2011 - 09:35PM

The Councilmen weren't texting one another. I know for a fact they weren't.

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