Video: City Councilors Spar Over Use of Computers, Phones During Meetings
“When God created man he didn’t afford him a computer or a texting machine.” - City Councilor Robert Penta.
A resolution to ban city councilors from using electronic devices during meetings drew heated debate Tuesday night before ultimately being defeated.
The council voted 4-3 to defeat the resolution, which was brought forth by councilors Robert Penta and Michael Marks, but not before Penta and fellow councilor Paul Camuso had an impassioned exchange.
In Medford, the use of smart phones and computers during meetings can be a distraction and are sometimes the source of questionable information, Penta said.
“This is an open forum, residents deserve our undivided attention," he said.
The resolution was submitted only days after Camuso took out his Apple MacBook during a council meeting on April 5.
Councilors should come to meetings prepared and not need to use computers for reference, Penta said.
“When God created man he didn’t afford him a computer or a texting machine,” Penta said.
The issue has come to the forefront in other legislative bodies -- including Connecticut and Texas, Penta said. In 2009, an Associated Press photographer captured a photo showing legislators playing solitaire on a government issued computers that caused a stir in Connecticut.
“This isn’t Bob Penta making this up,” Penta said.
Camuso said using a computer or phone to access the internet allows councilors to quickly pull up detailed and accurate information. Even if the resolution passed, he wouldn't follow it, he said.
"The people of this community deserve city councilors that are going to give them accurate, quick, responsive information," Camuso said.
In addition, using his laptop to take notes saves paper, he said.
"If you, Councilor Robert M. Penta, do not want to do your part to reduce your carbon footprint, continue to take the notes and have the 400, 500, 600, pieces of paper," Camuso said.
Penta responded, saying: "I'm not worried about my carbon footprint; maybe you should worry about yours -- Speak for yourself okay? But more importantly, I don't need a computer to have somebody tell me what to say or tell me what to do, I don't need to have somebody do that.
"I have the brain that God gave me. No one is going to computer me to tell me what to say or do, or advise me."
Marks said he co-signed on the resolution because every councilor deserves the undivided attention of their colleagues when they are speaking.
“It’s a matter of common courtesy, that council members refrain from using electronic devices," Marks said.
Councilor Frederick Dello Russo said he couldn't support the resolution, but was unsure of the role mobile devices and the internet should play in council meetings.
"I think it’s too soon," he said. "I think the jury’s out on these handheld devices."
Camuso, Dello Russo, Mark Arena and council President Robert Maiocco all voted against the resolution, while Marks, Penta and Breanna Lungo-Koehn voting in support of it.