Texting Being Used to Violate Civil Rights and Influence Votes During Town Hearings

We handle numerous calls from potential and existing clients about their problems with City and Town officials. A disturbing thing that seems to be reported with increasing frequency involves the use of message “texting” during board meetings and hearings.

It works like this: Someone who doesn’t like an applicant or petitioner is very friendly or may even have power over one or two board members. This person will then either sit in on a hearing or meeting concerning the application (generally out of the way and toward the back) or watch on public access television (if available). They then use “text” messages to communicate their thoughts, suggestions, etc. to their pal(s) on the board – all in an effort to help delay or defeat the applicant (or cause the applicant to have to spend more and more time and money until they give up).

The motivation for doing this varies from jealousy to self-interest to just plain opposing anything and everything. But regardless of motive, it is distressing to be hearing from board members that they look to their left or right and see a fellow board member reading text messages, look out at their friend and nod slightly, then deliver a stinging remark or ridiculous proposal to please their “pal”.

So, the next time you are on a board or see board members looking down at laptop computers, “Blackberries”, or other texting devices, think how it might be a good idea to ban them from use during these sessions. Let their devious pals go back to giving signals like third base coaches in baseball. Or better yet, report this type activity and help restore clean, honest government in our cities and towns.

And to all those who have been doing this, be forewarned that people are aware of these little “tricks” and someday you may have to explain why you did this before a judge and jury.

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