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Peoria Council OKs ban on members sending messages

CIn a move described as a way to improve transparency, the Peoria City Council is prohibiting its members from sending text messages or emails during meetings.

A policy change unanimously approved by the Council on Tuesday bans members from using any electronic device capable of sending messages during Council meetings. Council members also are banned from using those devices during public meetings except to access information stored on the device or the city’s electronic network.

Officials said there hasn’t been any specific problem, but that texting during meetings gives the public a bad perception.

“This is an excellent idea,” said Vice Mayor Ron Aames. “It’s clear that we shouldn’t be doing this and we see it as a definite statement so there’s no confusion.”

According to The Arizona Republic, Peoria appears to be the first Arizona city with such a ban.

City Attorney Steve Kemp said members of a public body are supposed to communicate in the open during meetings.

Electronic communication between councilmembers or with anyone else undermines the open meetings law, Kemp said.

“Input needs to come through in an open meeting by the public in a way that all in the public can hear,” he said, “and not through text or tablet or email or other types of things where the public can no longer participate.”

The open meeting law generally requires public bodies to meet in public.

The law defines a meeting as a gathering in person or through technological devices of a quorum during which they discuss, propose or take legal action.

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