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Manteca trustees can’t use phones at meetings

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POSTED August 22, 2013 1:33 a.m.

Trustees will no longer be allowed to use their cell phones during Manteca Unified school board meetings.

They voted 6-1 Tuesday to ban electronic communication devices while in session. Sam Fant was the lone dissenter, saying that he and his colleagues were capable of “taking responsibility for their own action” in this situation.

According to the policy, the board will be required to exercise caution “so as to ensure that electronic communications are not used as a means for (the board) to deliberate outside the agendized meeting.”

Trustees “shall not, outside of an authorized meeting, use a series of electronic communications of any kind, directly or through intermediaries, to discuss, deliberate, or take action on any item that is within the subject matter jurisdiction,” the policy said.

Superintendent Jason Messer noted that a board member talking, texting or using instant messaging on his or her electronic communication device during a meeting could be scrutinized by the public.

“It could be taken as (that board member) having a discussion about an item on the agenda,” he said.

Messer added that there’s still ways for board members – he used family emergencies, as an example – to access their cell phones within the rules of the meeting.

“You can always ask for a five minute recess,” said Messer.

He mentioned that, under the California Public Records Act, private and personal electronic devices may be subject to disclosure.

Trustee Evelyn Moore added: “Whatever communication devices you have is public record.”

Board President Don Scholl confessed to being embarrassed when his cell phone rings during some of his other meetings.

Trustee Manuel Medeiros, however, offered up a simple solution. “I just leave my cell phone in the car,” he said.

The policy, in addition, was developed to be aligned with the California School Board Association and the Ralph M. Brown Act on public meetings.

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