SYRACUSE -- Texting during council meetings is inappropriate.
That's the crux of new rules of conduct for members of the city council, approved during meetings on Nov. 8.
The six-page outline of guidelines for conduct includes a reference to texting and strongly suggests the habit should be avoided during council meetings.
The texting reference is found under a guideline for decorum among members and suggests council members should avoid engaging in private discourse "or committing any other act, such as text messaging," which may district the attention of the council or the audience from business before the council.
Several council members admit they've been prone to the habit, during the sometimes long sessions.
Councilman Larry Shingleton pushed for language against texting, in the final guidelines. He doesn't think it's appropriate to text, from the dais, while in the public eye.
Councilman Matt Kimmel admits he used to text during meetings early in his term, but came to the conclusion it wasn't appropriate and stopped the practice.
"At the beginning I got some texts and sent some. I didn't feel it was right. I stopped doing it and turned my phone off. For transparency we should refrain from texting while here," Kimmel said.
Councilman Alan Clark said he has texted his wife, at times, when meetings have gone long to let her know he'll be late. He wondered if the guideline should try to be specific to all the acts, which could be a distraction.
Councilman Matt OcaÃ±a said it is important to note the guideline does not prohibit texting, it simply discourages it.
When asked about legal access to texts from council members, City Attorney Todd Godfrey said electronic data is not exempt from public review. He suggested a GRAMMA request for information could easily include text messages.
The new guideline was adopted with a bit of irony. During discussion of guidelines for conduct, during a work session, Mayor Jamie Nagle mentioned City Manager Robert Rice had texted her to let her know the council had exceeded their expected time limit for discussion of the issue.
Besides texting, Councilman Doug Peterson raised another issue related to electronic media. All members of the council are provided with an iPad to see support materials for different issues during a given meeting. Peterson wondered if it is appropriate to send email during city meetings as well.