Saturday, May 16, 2009

OMA and electronic communications

With the continuing improvements and availability of electronic communications, what is the risk to the public during open meetings that some communications will not be open and public?

When you attend a city council meeting, a village board meeting, a commission or board meeting of a local government, you expect communications to be open and public. And it wouldn't hurt that they be loud enough to be heard throughout the meeting room.

With the increasing use of laptop computers (it saves paper, don't you know?) there is also a possibility that members of the "public body" could use them for private conversations during the meeting, which doesn't fit well with the Open Meetings Act.

Doing that would be akin to leaning to your neighbor on the board/communication/council and covering your lips as you whisper something about the matter under consideration. Somewhere, no doubt, a member of such a public body is sending a text message with his cell phone, sending an IM or sending an email to communicate with other members of the "public body".

Anyone, attending a public meeting anywhere, who gets a whiff of such an action, should immediately challenge it - right then and there.

If any member of a public body receives such a message, even if private on his BlackBerry or cell phone and if he gives attention to it during the public meeting, he should disclose to the public that he has received a text-message on his cell phone that, for example, his house is on fire and he'll have to leave as soon as the meeting is over. Then the public will know that he wasn't getting a message from a colleague on the board/commission/council asking/telling him to vote a certain way.

1 comment:

Another Lawyer said...

Another reason that I wouldn't want to serve on a public board: people way to interested in minutae.