Mayor Meister Advocates Ban on Cellphone Use by Council Members

Members of the West Hollywood City Council soon may not be able to get updates on baseball games, requests for dates or suggestions on how to vote from lobbyists while they are sitting on the Council dais.

Mayor Lauren Meister has put on Monday’s City Council agenda a proposal that would bar both elected and appointed officials such as the city manager from using electronic communication devices such as cell phones, laptops and tablets during official public meetings.

Lauren Meister
Lauren Meister

The proposal comes on the heels of an allegation by Councilmember John D’Amico that his colleague, Councilmember John Duran, was viewing his cellphone during Council meetings. For years I have glanced over and seen John trolling on Grindr for men,” D’Amico said during a March Council meeting. “I can no longer agree to believe that we can give John Duran a pass.” Duran denied the allegation.

Meister’s proposal notes that more than half of legislative bodies in the United States bar the use of electronic devices while in session.

“The underlying principle of a fair hearing includes an open, public process,” her proposal states. “In order to provide a fair hearing, council members and appointed officials are required to make their decisions based only on evidence ‘in the record’ and cannot rely on evidence or information obtained outside the record that is not disclosed at the public hearing. The easiest way to ensure a fair hearing is to limit the knowledge about an item to just what is provided as part of the record and not check outside sources, such as electronic devices, during a hearing.

“Even if electronic communication is unrelated to the public hearing item, it can give the appearance that City Council or Commissioners are either receiving evidence that is not in the record or not giving their full attention to the matter at hand. Council members have a duty to avoid any appearance of impropriety or inattentiveness. The California Court of Appeal invalidated a decision in the City of Los Angeles due to inattentiveness by the City Council, finding the inattentiveness – which included council members on their phones -was a due process violation.”

The City Council meets at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Council Chambers, 625 N. San Vicente Blvd. south of Santa Monica. Free parking is available in the structure behind the chamber building if tickets are validated in its lobby.

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Jonathan Simmons
Jonathan Simmons
6 years ago

To Ms. Meister: The fact that you have seen a recurring problem with cell phones during Council Meetings can’t be resolved among your fellow elected weho city councul members, TAKE ACTION – CALL OUT EVERY MEMBER USING THEIR PHONE DURING EACH MEETING. The regular resident-viewers at the meetings will strongly notice and agree (loudly, I suspect). The meetings being video recorded, after a few CALL outs will either embarras the other elected members TO STOP, or create a great utube video compilatiin that could be used during elections … it will help the unaware, trusting residents to make a voting… Read more »

Ever Vigilant
Ever Vigilant
6 years ago

This is an inappropriate proposal. The key word is APPROPRIATE in all behavior related to city business as well as the personal conduct of individuals interacting with the city in a variety of venues, including Wehoville. To require a virtual monitor on everyone’s shoulder far misses the point. Socially acceptable conduct should be the only acceptable mode of behavior and those that cannot follow a high standard are perhaps better suited for other ventures. Constant juvenile haggling makes everyone look foolish including the city as an entity itself.

Brian Holt
Brian Holt
6 years ago

Go Lauren! Why I love our no nonsense advocate who’s not afraid to take on the boys – big and small…

Karen O'Keefe
Karen O'Keefe
6 years ago

Here’s an example of laptops/electronic devices enhancing debate: In Maryland, during a committee hearing on decriminalizing marijuana possession, a chief of police testified that 37 people died of overdoses in a single day Colorado after marijuana was legalized. Because he was able to access electronic devices/ the internet, during the debate Sen. Jamie Raskin looked up the statement and found out that the source was a satire site, and the assertion was inaccurate. It’s actually virtually impossible to fatally overdose on marijuana, and there are no medically documented cases of it having happened in the U.S. (See: http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2014/02/26/maryland-police-chief-cites-satirical-article-during-anti-pot-testimony ) Forbidding… Read more »

Karen O'Keefe
Karen O'Keefe
6 years ago

I disagree with this proposal. There are numerous legitimate reasons a council member may want to look at their phone/ laptop, including to look at staff reports, to fact check (and they can discuss those facts publicly after researching them), to get emails updates about ill loved ones, etc. Given that council members are sometimes not even required to be at every single meeting, an insistence that they never multi-task when they are there seems extreme. Council meetings are interminably long as it is, and I have wished several times that Council Member Meister would have asked some questions privately… Read more »

Rob Bergstein
Rob Bergstein
6 years ago

I’m with our Mayor on this one. Using any electronic device during a council or commission meeting can give the appearance that you are in violation of the Brown Act…..

Dimitri Perparos
6 years ago

@MikeDolan “What if they need to make notes for future reference…” It’s called PEN & PAPER!!! City council members got along just fine during meetings pre-cell phone days. I’m sure Heilman can attest. He sat up there before the technology existed.
@Jennifer: Get over it! Weak argument! Like I’m sure you’ve never “invaded someone’s privacy” by glancing at the person next to you’s cell. SMH!

Neal Z.
6 years ago

Not sure why this article has turned into a referendum on me and my opinion, but I’ll respond none the same. Contrary to the accusation from “WeHoKid,” I don’t often represent business interests before the Council. My only dealings with the City in the past several years has been as a tenants’ rights attorney, and I have advocated on behalf of a few tenants whose rights have been abused by landlords. But none of those cases ever got to the city council, and were resolved by either the Rent Stabilization Department hearing officer or the Commission. The last time I… Read more »

Rudolf Martin
Rudolf Martin
6 years ago

Maybe we can just deactivate Grindr during council meetings, aren’t they right across the street? If there’s a Grindr emergency in mid session, council members could just dash over to headquarters in the Red Hering Building.

Jennifer
Jennifer
6 years ago

The most telling part of this article is the timing of the proposed ban. I note that this item “‘comes on the heels of an allegation by Councilmember John D’Amico that his colleague, Councilmember John Duran, was viewing his cellphone during Council meetings.'” “For years I have glanced over and seen John trolling on Grindr for men,” What is most revealing about this story is the character of John D’Amico. So for years he has been peering over at another Councilperson’s phone. This is a complete invasion of privacy. I liken his behavior to that of a peeping tom or… Read more »

WeHoKid
WeHoKid
6 years ago

Neal Z. insists its a bad idea, but neglects to tell us he often represents ‘business interests’ before the Council. I for one would like to be a fly on the screen of his phone to know what he texted to which Councilmember during meetings. Perhaps he’d be willing to have those out in the open.

Tom Smart
Tom Smart
6 years ago

GREAT IDEA LAUREN!!!!

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