Council Twitter feeds may violate state law

Tuesday, February 16, 2010 at 11:08pm

Social media enthusiasts can expect fewer live Twitter and Facebook updates from Metro Council members during meetings.

Council attorney Jon Cooper informed members that “twittering,” text-messaging and other forms of Internet-updating might violate Tennessee’s open meetings act. He didn’t offer an official legal opinion on the matter, only advice.

Over the past year, online tools have been popular devices for a handful of members to offer unfiltered accounts of Council proceedings to their constituents. Among those who have turned to Twitter is East Nashville Councilman Erik Cole, who said he would oblige Cooper’s recommendation.

“Basically they’re advising us to not do any sort of social media communications on the floor during meetings,” Cole said. “It’s tied to two aspects of the open meetings act.”

For starters, Cole said live updates on the social media website Facebook, for example, are not accessible to the entire public. The other point raised by legal counsel, he said, involves questions over officially notifying the public on social media updates.

“The crux of it is around deliberation,” Cole said. “It’s just so you’re not [using Twitter, Facebook or text-messaging] to deliberate over substantive matters on the floor, which honestly I don’t think anybody’s ever done.”

7 Comments on this post:

By: sidneyames on 2/17/10 at 7:20

Well, in the past I have surmised that some council members displayed juvenille behavior. Tweeting? Texting? Face booking during Council sessions? They have now confirmed it. Grow up City Council. You all are not in high school at a social studies class. You are at the City Council meeting and should be listening and paying close attention to the details. Leave your cell phones, blackberries and other game playing devices outside or turned off. Please tune in and turn on your full, undivided attention to the council, aka, the "people's" business.

By: sidneyames on 2/17/10 at 8:15

And even if it does not violate State law, it violates "good manners" and common courtesy.

By: xhexx on 2/17/10 at 8:37

The Council are a bunch of twits anyway.

By: Anna3 on 2/17/10 at 8:58

Texting remark about what position or vote one would take is a violation of law. We should get an advocacy group to sue to review if these folks are texting Council Business...if so, they deserve a penalty. They all know better. Jamison has attacked conservative members several times over this issue...but with the Liberals...It's again a different standard. Cole's wife just got hired by Metro to a very highly paid job she was not qualified for because Cole backed the Convention Center....Its the new Karl Dean Votes for Jobs program. Where's the City Paper on this one?

By: girliegirl on 2/17/10 at 9:40

But Anna3, there is one of those JOBS Obama said he created! LOL

By: Equanimity on 2/17/10 at 10:42

The Open Meetings Act is an important tool in keeping government transparent.

Is government transparent? No.

Do tweets, IMs, and text messages constitute violations? Very likely not.

When I e-mail my council representatives I expect that: 1) the communication is not private, and, 2) my opinion does little more than provide another perspective on an issue. This does not constitute a meeting.

As electronic communication options evolve - and evolve quickly - we will simply not be able to regulate these exchanges.

It's very likely that Rich Riebeling had numerous phone calls, lunches, and clandestine cocktails with Convention Center advocates and other influential parties. None of which is or can be made part of the public record.

An occasional reminder about "open meetings" is good for our elected representatives. Attempting to following the tweets and twitters is just silly.

Wonder who pays for the text messaging charges while council is in session?

By: girliegirl on 2/17/10 at 12:00

...um....not to state the obvious...but some Tweets are "sponsored" and Tweeters and being compensated monetarily for their Tweets. (go figure) As for transparency, it seems pretty transparent to me.....pun intended....