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talking and cell phones

Guest Joan Banez

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I notice over the past 3 years the use of cell phones by some members during City Council meetings, not just for a few seconds, but for long periods of time. There is also private conversations while members or the public are speaking as well as members leaving while other members or the public are speaking. Should these issues be addressed and are they acceptable during formal meetings?

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The behavior your described may or may not violate the rules of decorum in RONR.  The behavior your described strikes me as inappropriate,  but it may or may not violate a specific rule in RONR..   Here is the only "rule" on the subject that I could find in RONR.  It is on page 394:

REFRAINING FROM DISTURBING THE ASSEMBLY. During debate, during remarks by the presiding officer to the assembly, and during voting, no member should be permitted to disturb the assembly by whispering, walking across the floor, or in any other way. The key words here are disturb the assembly. This rule does not mean, therefore, that members can never whisper, or walk from one place to another in the hall during the deliberations of the assembly. At large meetings it would be impossible to enforce such a rule. However, the presiding officer should watch that such activity does not disturb the meeting or hamper the transaction of business.

It is up to the chair (and the members themselves) to maintain decorum in meetings.  If the majority of the members want to permit this behavior, there isn't much you can do about it.  It is behavior which I see occurring to one degree or another rather frequently in meetings of public bodies.  I agree that it is disconcerting to be addressing such a body while members are carrying on private conversations or talking or texting on their cell phones, but there is no rule in RONR which specifically prohibits it.  

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