Government leaders using phones to message during open meetings

The AJC watchdog Chris Joyner recently wrote about a worrisome practice – council members using their cell phones during open meetings. Opponents in Milton were recently corresponding with a city councilor during public discussions of their issue, prompting questions of impropriety since Sunshine laws demand most government meetings be totally open.

After the story published, the Georgia Attorney General’s office said that government officials should not communicate during meetings. But, AG spokesperson Nick Genesi said the Sunshine laws do not expressly forbid the practice:

“The public should demand better behavior from their elected officials,” Nick Genesi said. But, he added, “Right now the current statute doesn’t cover this gross violation of public policy.”

Genesi said his boss wanted to include language reining in the use of technology, such as text messaging, during otherwise public meetings in his rewrite of state sunshine laws four years ago, but he said Olens got resistance from state lawmakers.

We suggest lawmakers amend the law, and journalists in the state keep an eye out to see if “texting while governing” is an emerging trend.

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