Council To Ban Electronic Communication on the Dais; No Emails or Texts During Meetings

At the end of a very long agenda on May 28, 2024, the Culver City Council agreed to update language on the Culver City Municipal Code, Subchapter 3.01.100, to preclude “use of personal electronic devices during meetings.”  The motion was broken out into separate motions, specific to how phones might be allowed. 

Mayor Yasmine Imani McMorrin was assured by City Attorney Heather Baker that all emails and texts pertaining to city business would still be available to the public via records request. The mayor offered, “I don’t have any issues about updating the policy …I think we should be careful about the precedent that we are setting, and how it could be interpreted [in the future.]”

Both Baker and City Manager John Nachbar noted that Congress was not subject to such restriction, “They are not under the Brown Act, either, that’s just the state of California.” 

The Brown Act, a state law passed in 1953 to prevent local municipalities from making decisions in ‘smoke filled rooms’ enforces that public officials cannot discuss or decide on policy without including the public. The law also includes advance public notice requirements, which keeps meetings to what is on a previously posted agenda. 

The proposed municipal update was based on language taken from a City of Yorba Linda statute, “During a public meeting, city council shall be banned from all emailing and texting abilities to discuss any item on the city council agenda.” Vice Mayor O’Brien quoted the source, seeming to reflect the idea that the update was needed to protect the Brown Act. 

Electronic communications between council and staff were to be exempted. 

The discussion of the item was the final piece on a seven hour long meeting, and council chose to break the item into four separate parts, each one to be specific to a piece of the updated policy. Three of the sections passed unanimously, one was passed by a four to one vote with the mayor abstaining. 

Judith Martin-Straw


The Actors' Gang