San Benito bans officials from using cell phones during meetings

SAN BENITO — They’re paying attention.

Yesterday evening, city commissioners unanimously voted to prohibit city officials from using their cell phones during city meetings.

Commissioners Rene Villafranco and Carol Lynn Sanchez were absent.

Mayor Ben Gomez, who has said he wants officials to give citizens their “undivided attention,” requested commissioners put the matter to a vote after residents complained some commissioners were using their cell phones while sitting at the board table.

The action prohibits commissioners as well as officials appointed to city boards from using their cell phones and other mobile devices while at the board table during open and closed-session city meetings.

Earlier this week, Sanchez, a mother of three young children, including a newborn baby, stated she would like the city to allow officials limited use of cell phones to be able to address important family and work-related matters that might come up during city meetings.

Sanchez also stated she has counted on her smart phone to access Internet information during meetings.

Meanwhile, resident Joe Rodriguez, a city watchdog, said he has sent text messages to communicate with officials about agenda items during meetings.