officials Wednesday cited a litany of practical hurdles that must be
overcome as they took the first steps toward establishing a policy to
treat e-mails, text messages and other electronic communications about
government business on their personal cell phones or computers as
public records," reports John Woolfolk for the San Jose Mercury News.

Councilman Pete Constant, a prolific text
massager and Facebooker, noted for example that after checking with
AT&T, he found there is no way for him to export text messages from
his personal iPhone to his official city e-mail system, where anyone
could retrieve them under a public records request.
"We have to
be careful how we look at the limits of technology as well as the
expansion of technology," said Constant, who represents West San Jose.

new policy will address what government watchdogs say is a growing
national concern as elected officials embrace new technology and
communicate with constituents on personal computers, cell phones and
social networking sites that can put discussions about government
policy out of reach from public records requests.

San Jose has
adhered to most California cities' position that for both practical and
privacy reasons, only records stored and maintained on official
government networks are public. Government watchdogs argue that any
record concerning government business is public, regardless of the
format. The matter has yet to be settled by the courts.

After a Mercury News article in August thatcited
evidence of at least one lobbyist text-messaging thoughts on a land-use
discussion to a council member during a meeting, Mayor Chuck Reed and
the City Council agreed to pursue a policymaking personal electronic
communications about official matters public.

Wednesday, an
open-government committee chaired by Reed laid out issues that the city
attorney and administration will have to consider in drafting an
effective policy. A draft policy is expected to go back to the council
in November.

Reed said San Jose may want to consider the approach
taken by the city of Saratoga, one of a few to aggressively confront
the issue. Saratoga recently required all its council members and
planning commissioners to use city e-mail for official business. The
city also now prohibits text messaging and e-mailing during public

Saratoga Mayor Chuck Page said his city was spurred by
concerns about how to respond to a public records request or a court
subpoena for records from personal devices. Page also was concerned
about a public perception that council members were being distracted by
texts and e-mails during meetings.
"We owe it to our citizens to pay 100-percent attention," Page said.

San Jose City Councilwoman Nancy Pyle said the Saratoga policy made a lot of sense."We're
there to do the public's business," said Pyle, who represents the
Almaden and Blossom valleys. "I really find it difficult to understand
why we need our cell phones there."