The Cranston City Council, under the guidance of new City Council President Michael Farina, is poised to adopt “Proposed Council Rules for 2017-2019” at a city council meeting tonight that would be in violation of the RI Open Meetings Act. Among the rules to be considered is Rule 41:
When the City Council or a Council Committee is in session in the Council Chambers, there will be no use of cell phones or electronic pagers, audio/visual equipment, or other device, without express approval by the presiding Council member. Private discussions should be kept to a respectful tone so as to not disturb the proceedings. The presiding officer shall warn those disturbing the proceedings to be respectful and considerate of those attending to the business of the meeting. If those disturbing the meeting continue to do so after the warning, the presiding officer may order they be removed and those persons may be subject to any civil or criminal penalties.
According to a letter sent by Steven Brown, executive director of the ACLU of Rhode island, “[t]he italicized portion is new language added to the interim rules that were adopted by the Council at its first meeting of the year and that are currently in effect. The clear intent and result of this new language is to bar members of the public from recording, either aurally or visually, any City Council or Council committee meetings without express permission of the Chair.”
In January the ACLU and this reporter instructed the newly elected Cranston City Council majority about the rights enshrined in the Rhode Island Open Meetings Act. Any member of the public may record any meeting of any city or town council and does not need the permission of the council to do so.
The next meeting of the Cranston City Council is tonight, Monday, April 24, at 7pm. I will be there. Here is the agenda.