Council president imposes ban on cell phone use at meetings – First Coast News
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A flurry of texting to Jacksonville City Council members from the firefighters’ union is triggering potential legal action from a watchdog group and a ban on cell phone use at meetings from the council president.
In a Thursday memo, City Council President Greg Anderson issued a policy ban on cell phone use at meetings — effective immediately.
At the same time, Concerned Taxpayers of Duval County is preparing a lawsuit to force compliance of the Florida’s Sunshine Laws that spell out that public business be done in the open.
“I understand this may be hardship for those who have children or family at home or those of us trying to balance careers and public service; however, public trust is paramount to excellence in government,” the memo said in part.
The issue is expected to come up for discussion at next week’s council meeting.
Last month during the budget vote, a flurry of text messages from Randy Wyse, president of the firefighters’ union, to council members who were considering whether to restore full funding for 17 firefighter positions. The council did vote to restore $320,000 at the expense of fund for drainage.
“You are suggesting they park their cell phones? Absolutely,” said John Winkler with Concerned Taxpayers of Duval County.
“Leave your gun at the door, the saloon. Leave your cell phone at the door when go to the city council meeting. That’s all there is to it,” said Winkler.
One conversation was between Wyse and council member Katrina Brown. Wyse in one text said, “Would you be ok with using journey money?” with Brown responding a minute later, “Better than drainage money.”
The flurry of behind-the-scenes texting hit a nerve with Lloyd Fields, a local taxpayer and truck driver.
“That’s what this is, is silent communication. You don’t know what they are doing, they should be handing business they way should be handling it,” said Fields.
Councilman Bill Guillford introduced legislation to put reigns on cell phones and texting.
The legislation would require council members not to respond to any lobbyist, union member or city administrator during a meeting.
If a text is received, council members are suppose to disclose it before voting. The proposed legislation would also require council members to disclose the contents of any messages within 48 hours of receiving it.
You can read Anderson’s memo below: