Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Open Government; Reform Texts on Council

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Open Government; Reform Texts on Council

Article excerpt

City Council should make it official and ban texting during meetings.

When three City Council members mysteriously changed their votes on a controversial issue during a recent meeting, they deprived the public from hearing an explanation for their changed minds.

They also deprived their fellow council members from hearing their reasoning. Realists could figure out there must have been lobbying going on behind the scenes.

That was the case.

Fire union head Randy Wyse had been lobbying council members to prevent demotions in the fire department.

The source of $320,000 of funds was stormwater drainage, a special need in this city, especially in the core city.

Given those drainage needs, it was outrageous that the three council members changed their votes: Scott Wilson, Katrina Brown and Reggie Gaffney. In fact, it was as bad as bad government could get.

Now it seems texting will be banned during City Council meetings, either through order of City Council President Greg Anderson or through a bill filed by Councilman Bill Gulliford.

Or both.

It's inexcusable that this texting controversy ever happened given the fact that council members just received training in the Sunshine Law a few months ago.

And it's suspicious that several council members couldn't find copies of their email following the public records request by the Times-Union. State law and attorney general opinions are clear. Any communication relating to public business must be saved.

The law also is clear that a third party cannot be used as a device to communicate between public officials on public business.

Did that happen here?

Wyse says he never passed messages from one council member to another. And Wyse insists that he broke no rules. He was only trying to represent his interests. …

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