Should texting be prohibited during Sioux Falls City Council meetings?

I will be the first to admit that I am guilty of texting councilors during meetings. Most of them don’t respond until after the meeting, and they really shouldn’t be. But I have noticed lately that ever since PTH took the helm, it is texting central, the main offenders I have seen are Mayor TenHaken and councilors Neitzert and Erickson. Not sure if the others are engaging in the texting.

Maybe it is time the SF City Council implement a ban on texting during the meetings like they do in Rapid City (see ordinance below). They are really there to do the public’s business, so they should be listening to the public instead of fiddling with background information from other people watching. It reminds me of when I was in school and the teacher would catch you passing notes, and they would say “Would you like to share?”

It also brings up an interesting legal question since the councilors get a taxpayer stipend for their cell phones, shouldn’t these texts during the meeting be public information and shared with the public?

Our elected leaders should be prepared before coming to the meetings. They are also supplied with laptops to search any pertinent information they may need from the internet or internal city files, they also should be listening to testimony from the public, city employees and business people not getting outside information while setting policy.

Maybe it is time for a policy.

2.04.120  Electronic communication mediums prohibited.

   A.   For purposes of this section, “Electronic Communication Medium” shall mean any technology that allows text, audio, static images, or video to be exchanged between two or more people in real time or near real time creating or inviting an interactive exchange of information.  Examples of electronic communication mediums include, but are not limited to, electronic mail also known as email, instant messaging, chat rooms, cell phone text messaging, and web logs also known as blogs.
   B.   The use of any electronic communication medium by the members of any city board commission or the Common Council during any meeting that is required to be open to the public by South Dakota law is prohibited.  Notwithstanding this provision, members of the Common Council may review e-mail messages that have been received prior to a Common Council meeting but may not engage in any communication activity using e-mail during a meeting.
(Ord. 5733, 2011: Ord. 5398, 2008)


#1 Conservative Here on 06.05.19 at 3:20 pm

It’s basic decency. I know when I am at work and we are in a meeting, there is always that one person on their phone or PC doing something OTHER than BEING PRESENT at the meeting. The best part is when we stop to ask that person a question, they are like huh what, can you repeat that. It’s just rude, you should pay attention to what is going on isn’t that what they are there to do in the only 2 hour session they have each week.

#2 l3wis on 06.05.19 at 3:31 pm

The problem is they are getting info from outside people so they can downplay other councilors testimony.

#3 Theresa stehly on 06.05.19 at 4:21 pm

This is an issue that we need to address as a Council. Getting a private text from a citizen during the meeting would be akin to allowing a citizen to come up to us from the crowd and whisper comments in our ear during the meeting. We have all used our it’s time to put them away.

#4 scott on 06.05.19 at 4:43 pm

imagine the other councilors reasons for voting this down.

#5 Blasphemo on 06.05.19 at 5:02 pm

Stehly’s point that texting to another party during a formal council meeting is akin to an audience member going over the railing & up to the dais to whisper debate advice to a councilor. . . is SPOT ON. It would never be allowed, nor should cell phone use for voice or text during a council meeting.

#6 Scott Linder on 06.05.19 at 5:56 pm

Everyone in those chairs needs to pay attention. No texting and the men should wear ties.

#7 anonymous on 06.05.19 at 6:50 pm

Perhaps they’re ‘whipping’ the vote!

The big question is: Who is the whip?

#8 Sierra broussard on 06.05.19 at 8:54 pm

It takes 2 councilmembers to put it in the agenda . Once it’s on the agenda it goes to first reading and seconding g reading and its vored for or against .

#9 Sarah on 06.06.19 at 12:07 am

I notice this at school board meetings as well. Dr. Maher has his phone in hand during meetings and scrolls
through text messages. Unacceptable.

#10 JG on 06.06.19 at 8:02 am

Scott Linder, should we make the ladies wear dresses too?

#11 D@ily Spin on 06.06.19 at 9:10 am

Likely, there’s a violation of Roberts Rules. Texting a councilor during a meeting is unethical. How about subpoena their phones and see who’s taking bribes?

#12 D@ily Spin on 06.06.19 at 9:18 am

Citizens can have councilors dismissed. Just text and offer money for their vote. Texts are a permanent record that can be recovered from phone records. I’d say turn your phones off so you can’t receive texts during a meeting. It’s for your own protection against ethics litigation.

#13 l3wis on 06.06.19 at 9:29 am

Besides the legality of the text messaging, what I can’t figure out is why it is so hard to put the phone away for a public meeting?! I think at the Keg restaurant they have a cell phone basket you can throw your phone in while you are eating. Maybe instead of an ordinance they just have a shoebox that the clerk keeps. LOL.

I guess one of the councilors had a melt-down yesterday for me bringing this up on my blog, as if this taxpaying, voting, citizen of this community doesn’t have the right to talk about council policy in a public forum and as if a councilor doesn’t have the right to tell me what councilors are doing with taxpayer funded cell phones during meetings. Greg, get a life.

#14 common sense on 06.06.19 at 10:32 am

Won’t common sense tell public officials to turn off their cell phones during public meetings?

I guess not.

Our 8 councilors need to discuss this publicly. I want to know where each of them stands on this issue.

The fact Neitzert had a meltdown over this being discussed publicly tells me all I need know about this councilor.

Same should apply to school board meetings.

Dr. Maher is one of the highest paid officials in SD.

He is well compensated to be the role model for 3,000 employees and 25,000 students.


Incoming Sioux Falls Superintendent Brian Maher will make $220,000 in the first year of his contract with the Sioux Falls School District, which begins in July and ends June 30, 2018.

four weeks of vacation
15 sick days
a monthly stipend of roughly $2,900
plus $750 a month for transportation

mayor, city councilors, superintendent, school board members:

Show the Taxpayers Some Respect.

Turn Off Your Cell Phones.

#15 "'Extremely' Stable Genius" on 06.06.19 at 3:03 pm

Haven’t Councilors been known to watch TV before, while serving on the Council? It appears to me the precedence has been established to ignore your primary duty.

But isn’t it ironic, that many on the Council want to get rid of public input and wish not to verbally exchange with citizens who are before the Council, but they will take a text from a developer, or one from their spouse who is telling them to bring some milk and bread home after the Council meeting….#WeHaveOurPriorities

(“Who?”…”The citizens?”…”Who are they?”)

#16 scott on 06.06.19 at 6:31 pm

does greg have a new post-council job lined up?

#17 Scott D Hudson on 06.06.19 at 7:20 pm

I’d say that any texts that come in that they read during a city council meeting should be required to be added to the public record.

#18 A fleeting farmer on 06.06.19 at 10:26 pm

Adding them to public record is a good idea. It might be a way to find out if any of them are “SugarDaddies,” or “Mommies,” too.

#19 anonymous on 06.07.19 at 9:40 am

Scott D Hudson

And, that includes the Mayor!!

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