San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

April 19th, 2008
Buda council addresses computer question

By BILL PETERSON
Editor at Large

BUDA – The fuzzy edge between information technology and open government drifted through the Buda City Council Tuesday night as the city’s governing body wondered aloud about how to protect themselves and city business.

If the council ultimately heeds the legal advice of City Attorney Jim Duvall, the solution is simple.

“My recommendation is that the city give a computer (to each councilmember) and you use it for absolutely nothing but city business,” Duvall told the council.

The issue came up when Councilmember Tom Crouse requested that it be included on the Tuesday agenda. Crouse said the council needs to clarify its technological processes for councilmembers doing city business in light of discussions about moving to a paperless agenda accessible only by computer.

Crouse added that the city has talked in the past about providing councilmembers with computers, but hasn’t done so. Duvall said councilmembers using their personal computers for city business are taking enormous privacy risks.

“I would not, if I were you, do any city business on a personal computer,” Duvall said. “… People use open records requests where they used to use civil discovery and the Attorney General, when there’s an open records request, they will go on the side of making the information public … If somebody sues the city and wants to know what’s on (a councilmember’s personal computer with city business on it), you’re going to have to turn that computer over.”

Councilmember Sandra Tenorio said she was disturbed about the potential need to lug around three different computers – one for personal use, one for her job and another for council duties.

Councilmember Hutch White said the problem could be mitigated by setting up councilmembers’ personal computers with a virtual desktop feature that would actually allow them to work from their own machines by remote access to city computers.

But Duvall insisted that having the city issue computers exclusively for city business is the best way to go. Interim City Manager Sarah Mangham said laptops aren’t very expensive, indicating that the city could easily handle the expense. Furthermore, Mangham said, it would expedite the paperless agenda.

“That is how you will view that packet, is on that laptop,” Mangham said.

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