Some Jealous, Wary of Officials' Use of E-tools in Meetings

As screens and keyboards increasingly show up under the noses of officials conducting open meetings throughout the state, audience reactions range from resentment at the perceived discourtesy shown the public in attendance to downright distrust of members suspected of messaging one another to hold secret meetings in plain sight, or taking off-the record testimony or instructions from lobbyists or others in the audience or miles away.  Recent reports by Lori Carter for the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat and Nick Gerda for the Voice of OC provide examples.  

Meanwhile in the small city of Dixon near Sacramento, a proposed sunshine ordinance about to be circulated as an initiative reacts to the recent purchase of iPads for members of the City Council by stating:

A member of a legislative body may, during a meeting governed by the Brown Act or this Chapter, use a digital communication device only if it has been provided by the City to assist members in their official work and linked to a display screen mounted behind the member in the meeting room, allowing citizens present to observe how the member is using his or her device and to read whatever messages are being sent or received by that member during the meeting. Information sent, received or stored on such devices is subject to the applicable records retention statute in the Government Code and to the disclosure requirements of the California Public Records Act and this Chapter.

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