Anaheim Council Members Have to Put Their Smartphones Away

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The Anaheim City Council unanimously approved new rules Tuesday night banning council members from texting or emailing during council meetings, except in cases of family emergencies.

The policy, proposed by Mayor Tom Tait, arose from concerns about lobbyists wielding influence over elected officials during the very moments they are deliberating public policy.

Tait said it’s unfair for members of the public to only have three minutes to speak to the council about an issue on a meeting agenda while a select few have secret access to council members during the entire meeting.

“For a special interest or a lobbyist to have access to any of us during the meeting, I don’t know if it’s a violation of the Brown Act, but it doesn’t seem right,” Tait said.

However, there is no enforcement mechanism for the new policy. Council members still can use iPads to follow the agenda and there is nothing to prevent lobbyists from sending them texts or emails.

A staff report from the city attorney says texting or emailing during meetings isn’t “per se” a violation of the state’s open meetings law, known as the Ralph M. Brown Act. However, the law does require any written communication to a majority of council members to be made immediately available to the public upon request.

But unlike email, text messages can be tough to get under the public records law. In 2013, Voice of OC requested Anaheim council members’ text messages about public policy.

City officials responded at the time that the city held no such records.

Please contact Adam Elmahrek directly at aelmahrek@voiceofoc.org and follow him on Twitter: @adamelmahrek

  • Luis Noble-Perez

    it is disrespectful for this council to text while the people are speaking on important topics. Goes to show how the council dismiss the peoples concerns.

  • Cynthia Ward

    I applaud Tait for trying to clean up at least one violation of public trust and common courtesy in the meetings. Next step, and a MUCH BIGGER ISSUE is the use of personal electronic devices and personal data accounts that leaves no trace of a “public record” while they conduct the peoples’ business. The entirety of the Disney gate tax exemption was committed without creating a Public Record. Who runs a “world class city” this way?

  • Bob Brock

    Unanimous support and approval to not text during council meetings. I guess it’s news because it was a 5-0 vote in Anaheim? In other news, Villa Park’s consent calendar passed on a 5-0 unanimous vote too.

    • Greg Diamond

      It was unanimous only because at least three of the Council members (the majority) have had to be publicly shamed into supporting it.

      • Bob Brock

        Why three and not four? What public shaming took place? Must’ve missed that.

        • Greg Diamond

          I suppose my answer to your first question is: do you FOLLOW Anaheim City Council politics? It’s because two of them wouldn’t need to be goaded into supporting this.

          The public shaming would have followed a negative vote on the issue — and they knew it. The three members of the Council majority have consistently defended this practice in the past.

  • Cynthia Ward

    Uh Dan, how does having him leave the dais give clients ACCESS? That actually costs them access. It is so much easier to simply become “besties” with government leaders and then you can chit chat about all your heart’s desires for government funded goodies without having them recuse themselves AND without even creating a Public Record to leave a trail of bread crumbs. Of course once your “bestie” leaves office and can take the consulting gig with the company….the smart money waits until leaders are OUT of office to buy them, making deals on future returns. If Tait is on the take he is pretty bad at it, given we have yet to see him sway a deal to his benefit or the benefit of his clients. You want to say the same for the Big Three?

    • @Dan Chmielewski

      They already have access to the Mayor; they are already lining his company’s bank account while he’s still in office. This mayor recuses himself from a significant amount of city business. And just want until his one year wait is up with OCTA; Tait & Associates will have an unfair inside track on long term contracts to bid on. Tait got up 5 times during the meeting to consult with staff..but I guess that is only a problem is anyone but him does.

      • Greg Diamond

        Ryan, it appears that Dan may be projecting an image of how business works from his own experience as a flack. Don’t even try to figure out how opposing staff recommendations gives him an “inside track on long-term contracts” or how “consulting with staff during a meeting is clearly wrong.” I promise you, you’ll get nowhere.

        • RyanCantor

          Yeah, but it’s just an easy rock for him to throw.

          It’s actual tie to truth? No worries.

    • RyanCantor

      Right, because let’s attack a guy for owning a successful business. That makes a lot of sense.

      These are part time positions. Of course they all have jobs, or had jobs. Of course there will be conflicts.

      Of course, the other option here– career politicians. People who get paid to realistically do nothing. In some cases, they get paid to copy and paste from Wikipedia.

      • Greg Diamond

        Ryan, if you’re trying to get Dan to profit on his $25,000 “contract” with Tom Daly’s Clerk’s office to do a report, he’s not likely to admit that it even happened at all — let alone the rest of it involving the drive to get him to actually deliver the goods.

        • RyanCantor

          I would never in a million years expect Dan to apply his impossible ethical hurdles to those he agrees with.

          It’s pretty apparent he’s got a hammer and simply looks for nails to pound. What he’s pounding or if it’s actually a nail? Not relevant.

          • David Zenger

            As they say: “when all you have is a ball-peen hammer, every problem looks like a nail.”

            Okay, I added “ball-peen.” It just seemed so darn appropriate.

    • Y GM

      M. I. C. K. E. Y….M. O. U. S. E.

    • @Dan Chmielewski

      Cynthia — please document every dime paid t “The Big Three” from anything in Anaheim. And if you want to shout IE money, I’ll remind you how much the Tait Family Trust spends to influence elections too.

      • Greg Diamond

        Let’s make it the previous term’s “Big Four.” Cynthia, Dan wants to know how Gail Eastman profited from her position on Council. Then you can do the other three.

  • @Dan Chmielewski

    An meanwhile Tait recuses himself and leaves the dais for the entire A-Town discussion because his company does work with Lennar. It’s so much easier to get access to the Mayor on city business issues when you’re already doing business with his firm. That’s choosing profit in your pocket and business deals over one’s obligation as an elected official.

    • RyanCantor

      “That’s choosing profit in your pocket and business deals over one’s obligation as an elected official.”

      You’re suggesting the Mayor should not do business with ANYONE who works in Anaheim, otherwise he’s choosing profit over people?

      #Ridiculous

      If you want to focus on elected officials choosing personal interest over their obligations as an elected official, there’s plenty for you to focus on in Irvine from the last decade or so.

      • @Dan Chmielewski

        Yes Ryan. Actually he shouldn’t be doing business with anyone in Anaheim.
        And as far as Irvine goes, none of the previous Democratic majority made a dime from anything associated with the Great Park just like none of the Big Three (Cynthia’s term) have made a dime with anything associated with Anaheim. Tait & Company is a different story. If you have to recuse yourself as much as he does, he bother running for office?

        • Greg Diamond

          Please give us your views on Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido in this respect. Ready? Go!

          • @Dan Chmielewski

            Not your monkey. Give me your views on Tait’s company’s work in Garden Grove; an indoor water park in the midst of a drought on a deal similar to one’s he opposes as mayor in Anaheim. Do as I say, not as I do. How about your views on the Tait Family Trust investing in the very IEs that brought down your favorite council candidate in Brea? Your comments please. Go!

          • RyanCantor

            Who’s monkey are you then?

          • Greg Diamond

            He’s MY monkey, Ryan. He just doesn’t realize it. This stuff he’s giving us here is gold! And now I’ll be his monkey, because I have some stuff to fling at him.

            Let’s agree that a opening water park in drought-stricken OC is questionable. Now:

            (1) Did “the worst drought in centuries” (or whatever it is now) exist *at the time that his company signed the contract*? I don’t think it did.

            (2) If it did, did he have the ability to breach the contract without paying damages at that point on that account? Easy: no, he didn’t.

            (3) If he did breach anyway, would it have prevented the water park from being built? No, it would not have. Other companies could have built it.

            As for the IE, his money had nothing to do with the expenditures against Murdock. They all went into expenditures against Murray and Eastman. If you would bother to look up what Despicable Dave Gilliard’s PAC reported, you’d see that the Tait Family Trust — which Tait does not manage — made contributions equal to (minus the profit margin) the IE’s in the Anaheim Council race against two rotten Republicans. The Brea expenditures trace back to Dwight Manley and to various entities owned by a Korean business owner who’s a good friend of the now-Mayor, as well as his friends.

            Did you already check this out before writing — or are you just parroting someone’s talking points? If you checked it out, did you notice what I present above? If not, why not — it’s pretty easy (and I wrote about it at the time; it’s on Google.) If so, why are you leading the readers to a false conclusion?

          • Cynthia Ward

            Tait refusing the do the CURB CUTS on the water park project isn’t going to impact the project. Nobody has ever shown him as an investor, or a mastermind behind the project, or offering input on whether it is a good idea. Nor is there evidence of him lobbying GG to get it built. Curb cuts for the driveways, Dan. How about you put in the time to order some CPRA info like the rest of us have to do and see how involved Tait was in that deal regarding Garden Grove? Put in the time and effort the rest of us are doing to establish some FACTS and until then go back to flinging stuff within your own enclosure.

          • RyanCantor

            Cynthia, do you mean to say that Dan Chmielewski is taking Tom Tait to task over the Great Lodge Hotel because Mr. Tait’s company executed CURB CUTS directly for the City of Garden Grove?

            Curb Cuts = Moral Culpability for the entire hotel?

            #Unstoppable.

          • Greg Diamond

            Now, since I answered your questions about Tait, you can answer my questions about Pulido, or you transform from a monkey to a chicken.

        • Greg Diamond

          Well, you sure do sound like Jordan Brandman, whose position has been that whatever he does for his campaign contributors isn’t corruption because he doesn’t personally profit.

          Still trying, and failing, to come to grips with the documented actions of Forde and Mollrich?

          • @Dan Chmielewski

            Let’s review the documented actions of F&M. Please review the depositions from Mike Ellzey and Marcia Burgess, who both state the agency didn’t do any work outside of the scope of the contracts. In fact, FM provided HSNO with thousands of pages of documented billing records, progress reports, agency/client communications, detailed expense reports and not a single invoice was considered improper, duplicative, or out of scope by the auditor. HSNO’s preliminary report had so many errors and outright lies that it was pulled in its entirety. The city is actually seeking communications records between F&M and other clients which have nothing to do with the agency’s work for the city or the Great Park. Tell me counselor, would you surrender records from one client on behalf of another? You clearly don’t understand the public relations function. how agencies interact with clients or lack knowledge of what F&M did for the Great Park. What was their total billing? $7 to $8 million? F&M’s application for the Solar Decathlon (going on now for the second time at the Great Park) brought in $11 million in economic benefit to Irvine and OC two years ago. If you understand the concept of ROI, then you’d get that taxpayers got their money’s worth from the work done by F&M.

          • Greg Diamond

            I understand what a literal “return on investment” is. I also understand what a figurative one is, as in “Agran invested in his friendship with the principals of a PR firm — one Republican and one nominal Democrat — who were supposed to help him, and his return on that investment was the sudden virtual destruction of the Democratic Party in Irvine.

          • Greg Diamond

            If all of the work that F&M did was “within the scope of the contract,” then that was a pretty pitiful contract, wasn’t it? Who drew it up and approved it, anyway?

            I do think that it’s sad that your loyalties to your profession are so great that you’d happily throw Agran under the bus to protect the legitimacy of F&M’s profits.

            I think that I do understand the purpose of governmental public relations, by the way: IT’S TO PREVENT WHAT HAPPENED IN IRVINE FROM HAPPENING! But maybe that was left out of the “scope of the contract.”

            By the way — you don’t KNOW how much profit F&M made as the Great Park largely languished? That’s interesting. To my mind, part of the duty of F&M was to, if there WAS a good reason why the Great Park would not be proceeding as planned (as I believe there was), THE PUBLIC UNDERSTOOD IT. They failed miserably in that respect. But they sure got a lot of money out of the deal!

            As for the Solar Decathlon — even presuming that I bought your $11 million figure (which I don’t in the absence of extremely scrutiny), is there any reason to believe that THE PUBLIC knows about it, knows its value, and appreciates it? THAT, I submit, is part of PR — and part of F&M’s failure (for which Agram & Co. pay, not them.) The obvious problem is that the proponents of the Great Park promised a “Great Park” — NOT a place to hold a Solar Decathlon. Personally, I’m glad that the project is there — but it’s like you sold the public a refrigerator and gave them a 60-inch flat-screen TV. Nice — I guess – but NOT WHAT THEY ORDERED! If this was the deal, it should have been explained to the public well in advance — which would have involved admitting that the City Government couldn’t deliver on what they had intended. And THAT might have been forgiven so long as it was demonstrable that no one unduly profited from the Great Park — but profits by the PR Firm ITSELF MADE THAT IMPOSSIBLE!

            Your use of PR blatherings to numb Agran, Krom, Kang, and other Irvien Dems to the raging current of public unhappiness re the Great Park is a major reason for their political downfall. You helped to convince them not to worry because no one would ever believe there was a problem. So let it never be said that you’ve never accomplished anything in politics — it just didn’t benefit Democrats. Your priorities are clear.

      • RyanCantor

        The Mayor of Anaheim shouldn’t do business with anyone in Anaheim.

        — Dan Chmielewski

        Another custom cut gem.

        • @Dan Chmielewski

          His business shouldn’t be doing work with companies seeking city business; surely you understand the concept of “conflict of interest.” I guess not.

          • RyanCantor

            No, Dan– you really don’t.

            The Mayor of Anaheim shouldn’t be doing work WITH ANY COMPANY that does business in Anaheim.

            Not only is this an impossible standard (meaning no one with a business can meet this), it’s contemptible.

            The idea that a city mayor should have to go outside his borders to make a living is absurd.

            Up next: President Obama moves all investments and future business deals to China . . . because Dan Chmielewski thinks that’s what conflict of interest means.

            It’s offensive, Dan. Don’t you see that?

      • RyanCantor

        “If you have to recuse yourself as much as he does, he bother running for office?”

        I don’t know how you take a perfectly legitimate complaint like this and turn it into an ugly conclusion like this:

        “That’s choosing profit in your pocket and business deals over one’s obligation as an elected official.”

        Your hate for Tait doesn’t make you stronger, Dan. Your critique of the action is valid. Your interpretation of motive is not just off base, it’s from the other side of the moon.

        • @Dan Chmielewski

          The motive is profit. If Tait doesn’t pitch any business from OCTA after 2019, I’ll admit I was wrong. I doubt it in this case. Tait’s company does considerable business with the county for which he must recuse himself. Tait’s company does considerable business with the OCTA for which he must recuse himself. If you want to hold Jennifer Fitzgerald’s feet to the fire, shouldn’t you be doing the same with Tait? Ready? Go!

          • RyanCantor

            Tait refuses himself to further his profits?

            Do you hear yourself?

          • @Dan Chmielewski

            He recused himself more than any elected official in Orange County. He’s not doing his job. Do you hear yourself?

          • RyanCantor

            I’m pretty sure the voters in Anaheim get to decide that.

            If you really want to hammer this nail down, you need to demonstrate a critical vote that Tait’s lack of participation in caused harm to the Anaheim electorate.

            That’d be the Mayor not doing his job. To date, you’re not just short, you’re recklessly short.

            Otherwise, you’re just screaming into the wind, which wouldn’t surprise me.

            By the by, your impossible standard for not doing business with anyone in Anaheim who does business would exclude Lorri Galloway, someone who you passionately advocated should be mayor, from being Mayor as well.

            #Ridiculous

            This doesn’t have to be hard, Dan.

        • RyanCantor

          If I want to hold Ms. Fitzgerald accountable for potential conflicts of interests, I’d ask that she ABSTAIN from voting on issues with a potential conflict.

          Which is exactly what Tom Tait is doing.

          Your witch hunting is getting old.

    • Greg Diamond

      What good does that “access to the Mayor” do if he is recused from even discussing it with other members of the Council?

      Care to hazard a guess as to often Larry Agran — who, unlike how Ryan feels, I like! — has had to recuse himself on the Irvine City Council due to investments? Are you willing to make doing anything that could lead to recusal a blanket accusation?

      • @Dan Chmielewski

        Making an investment is one thing; seeking business is quite another. Apples and Oranges counselor. Agran’s a lawyer. Tait runs a business that seeks government contracts. These aren’t the same. And the last time I checked, Agran isn’t in office. Tait is.

        • RyanCantor

          According to state law, it’s exactly the same.

        • Greg Diamond

          No, Dan — your complaint is that there’s something wrong with recusal itself, because it prevents someone from doing the city’s business. The “access to the Mayor” argument already went away because we agree that so long as Tait doesn’t lobby his fellow Councilmembers on issues where he is recused — and he doesn’t — that “access” is not meaningful.

          Please try to pay better attention to your own arguments.

  • David Zenger

    Lobbyists? You meant “lobbyist.” There is only one in Anaheim.