Wednesday, October 22, 2014
My Account  | Login
Nashua;51.0;http://forecast.weather.gov/images/wtf/small/ra.png;2014-10-22 08:11:12
Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Aldermen  to get tablets for meetings

NASHUA – The Board of Aldermen soon will bring new, city-purchased electronic tablets to their meetings, but it’s unclear how will that affect their conduct within chamber walls.

Board President Brian McCarthy, the sponsor of legislation to get aldermen the devices, found himself defending the proposal last week as some board members questioned the necessity and potential negative effects on meetings. ...

Sign up to continue

Print subscriber?    Sign up for Full Access!

Please sign up for as low as 36 cents per day to continue viewing our website.

Digital subscribers receive

  • Unlimited access to all stories from nashuatelegraph.com on your computer, tablet or smart phone.
  • Access nashuatelegraph.com, view our digital edition or use our Full Access apps.
  • Get more information at nashuatelegraph.com/fullaccess
Sign up or Login

NASHUA – The Board of Aldermen soon will bring new, city-purchased electronic tablets to their meetings, but it’s unclear how will that affect their conduct within chamber walls.

Board President Brian McCarthy, the sponsor of legislation to get aldermen the devices, found himself defending the proposal last week as some board members questioned the necessity and potential negative effects on meetings.

McCarthy pointed out that the printing of large aldermanic meeting material packets are costly and expensive. He said the city spends $5,000 to $7,000 every year on printing costs for the board, and the tablets would save the city money. He’s estimated it would cost the board about $7,500 to attain the tablets, depending on which officials wanted them.

Alderman-at-Large Barbara Pressly criticized McCarthy’s proposal, which states aldermen who would not like to receive a city-issued tablet for meetings can pick up printed packets at 3 p.m. the Friday before a meeting.

“That leaves maybe two or three hours before the end of the day…,” she said, adding department heads within Nashua City Hall can be slow to release materials. “That seems unfair to me, to punish the Board of Aldermen that can’t get city employees to get what they want into the packet on time.”

McCarthy said the tablets will save about three hours of staff time every week normally devoted to delivering the packets to aldermen. That’s another cost savings of about $2,500 a year, he said.

The proposal was accepted by aldermen in the meeting though not unanimously.

Former alderman Paula Johnson disagreed the purchases will save money.

“Who’s going to pay the extended warranty on it? Who’s going to pay if it breaks?” she said at the public comment portion of a recent. “There are better things to do with that money, like don’t spend it on yourselves.”

When asked if tablets could open the doors to misconduct by board members following the meeting, McCarthy stressed again, “Those doors have been open for a long time.”

“Virtually everybody has a cell phone. Many have laptops or tablets. I use my cellphone to look up information I need like state laws or Nashua ordinances,” he said. “(Texting during meetings) is very likely in violation of the Right to Know Law, and it’s rude.”

McCarthy said he believed he couldn’t do anything to stop members from texting one another in meetings, though he said that is against the state’s Right to Know Law and he would hope every aldermen would hold themselves to a higher standard. He told the board to prevent something like that, he’d have to surround the aldermanic chambers in steel to somehow stop cellphone capabilities.

“I don’t think I could stop that if I wanted to,” he said.

Earlier this year, The Telegraph requested aldermen’s text messages and emails sent during meetings under the Right-to-Know Law. While only a few aldermen fully complied with the request, the provided records showed that aldermen do message one another from time to time, and aldermen said they did it mostly for legislative matters.

Ward 6 Alderman Paul Chasse told The Telegraph at that time that he messaged Mayor Donnalee Lozeau to ask a public official to speak closer to the microphone so he could hear from a television recording when he was home sick.

Pressly told the board she thinks of herself as a steward of the Right to Know Law that allows citizens to attain public information through RSA 91:A. She said she would hope any materials distributed on the tablets would remain in the public’s eye, which McCarthy said would not be an issue. The materials are already made public online, he said.

Pressly also requested the board consider a policy to turn off cell phones during meetings, and make an emergency line available to the board for those needing to reach aldermen immediately during long night meetings. She also said the city should review policies other cities have in place to handle such codes of conduct.

Samantha Allen can be reached at 594-6426 or sallen@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Allen on Twitter (@Telegraph_SamA).