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Nye County votes down action to limit electronic devices at commission meetings

Nye County Commissioners knocked down action in early January that could have prohibited or limited the use and/or possession of electronic devices during commission meetings.

Commissioners debated whether to amend the board’s rules of procedure to limit use and/or possession of devices such as cell phones, laptops, recording units and other items during a Jan. 2 commission meeting. The action would have limited both members of the public and the Nye County commissioners themselves.

Nye County Commissioner Butch Borasky put the item on the agenda, though he didn’t agree with approving the item, he said. Borasky said he posted it so the public could make comment on the item, if it chose, he stated during the Jan. 2 meeting.

“I put it on there, so the public can make comment on it if they want,” Borasky said. “But it doesn’t really make much sense to really do any of that.”

In the previous meeting on Dec. 19, remarks were given by Nye County resident John Bosta during an open public comment period on there being little transparency because people can’t see what’s being sent through text messages by the commissioners while they are in a meeting.

Bosta believed this to be a violation of the state’s open meeting laws, also pointing to California open meeting laws, where using electronic devices during a meeting is a violation to that state’s open meeting law, he claimed.

Open meeting law

The Nevada open meeting law has guidance on the use of electronic recording devices during a public meeting by a member of the public.

According to Nevada Revised Statute 241.035, Section 3, “all or part of any meeting of a public body may be recorded on audiotape or any other means of sound or video reproduction by a member of the general public if it is a public meeting so long as this in no way interferes with the conduct of the meeting.”

Without deliberation, the board moved to deny the action, with a second, before opening public comment.

The public comment period opened with an argument against cell phone and electronic device use during meetings, where Bosta was apt to comment once again.

“At the last board meeting, I brought forward the fact that using cell phones and electronic devices, according to the attorney general’s office, is not to be done, and to proceed using cell phones and electronic devices during a meeting violates the open meeting law, because the public can not see what you are referring to or what you have on those devices,” Bosta said.

DA responds, FOIA

Nye County District Attorney Angela Bello responded to Bosta’s remarks.

“With all due respect, I don’t think the board needs to be concerned with that,” said Bello. “The AG that John is referring to, it has to do with teleconferencing.”

Bello added that the county is set to have open meeting law training, which is scheduled for Jan. 17. Bello said that time would be a good opportunity for the attorney general to weigh in.

The meeting turned to suggestions by Herman Lewis, Nye County resident, of using the Freedom of Information Act to gain transparency by the commissioners. Lewis suggested making a request for commissioners’ texts or communications during meetings.

Bello said there is room for that.

“On their (commissioners) public phones, it is public record, anyone can make a request,” she said.

After public comment closed, Nye County Commissioner John Koenig pointed to California’s open meeting laws leaving little precedence to go on, refuting Bosta’s earlier claims.

“There’s nothing even in California that says you can’t use electronic equipment, contrary to the statement that was made at the last meeting,” he said.

Koenig also welcomed an FOIA request.

“I personally, in my year here, I’ve never, ever, texted another member during a meeting,” he said. “I’ve got better things to do than to be texting members.”

Soon after that, the board moved for a vote and unanimously approved the measure’s denial with a 5-0 vote.

Contact reporter Jeffrey Meehan at jmeehan@pvtimes.com. On Twitter: @pvtimes

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