San Benito proposes banning officials’ cell phone use during meeting


Staff Writer

SAN BENITO — Are smart phones distracting officials during city meetings?

Some residents might think so.

“Some people are complaining that instead of paying attention we’re using the phones,” City Commissioner Tony Gonzales said yesterday.

Residents such as Rosalinda Garcia believe officials’ use of cell phones during meetings shows they might be tending to personal business.

“It’s something they shouldn’t be doing — the time has been allotted for a commission meeting,” Garcia said. “It might be something personal. They might be distracted.”

However, resident Joe Rodriguez said he has sent text messages to communicate with officials during meetings.

“It’s another form of communication,” Rodriguez, a city watchdog, said. “It’s a good way to communicate while they are considering an agenda item. I don’t think it’s distracting as long as it’s texting.”

Later today, commissioners are expected to consider prohibiting officials from using cell phones while sitting at the board table during open and closed-door city meetings.

Mayor Ben Gomez said he proposed city officials be prohibited from using their cell phones while sitting at the board table during meetings.

“We’re representatives of the community and we have to give our undivided attention to what’s on the agenda and to citizens who have the floor,” Gomez said.

The proposal would prohibit commissioners as well as officials appointed to city boards from using their cell phones while at the board table during open and closed-session city meetings.

Commissioner Carol Lynn Sanchez understood concerns behind Gomez’s request.

“Technology is such a big part of our lives these days and cell phones have become quite a nuisance,” Sanchez stated. “In our positions, it is important to appear professional and, most importantly, give citizens, employees, legal reps and vendors our full attention out of simple courtesy.”

However, she would like the city to consider limiting officials’ use of cell phones during meetings.

“I am a mother of three young children, including a newborn, so it is extremely important to have communication with my husband or parents during meetings,” Sanchez stated. “From practices to appointments to projects to medicines to feedings, I am the one directing everyone, as most mothers.

“Emergencies, work and personal situations also come up, especially with how long these meetings tend to take. It’s hard to just cut ourselves off completely,” Sanchez stated.

Sanchez also counts on her smart phone to access Internet information.

“I also reference information electronically on my phone,” she stated.