LIVINGSTON -- In an effort to reduce cost, the City Council recently cut its cell phone policy for council members.
Though the decision may save the city some money, there was apprehension about less transparency since private phone records aren't available to the public.
The issue was brought up as a discussion and potential action item during Tuesday's City Council meeting. The decision to get rid of all city-paid cell phones for the council passed with a unanimous vote.
The change applies to only the council, not city employees, said Mayor Rodrigo Espinoza.
City cell phones have too often been abused for political reasons instead of addressing citizen's concerns, he said during Tuesday's meeting.
Councilwoman Theresa Land, who was recently elected to the council as part of the Aug. 31 recall, said the change hasn't and won't have a negative impact on communication with the council.
"When I came aboard, they offered me a city cell phone, and I declined," she said.
Land chose not to take a city-paid phone to save money, she mentioned.
"I didn't think it was needed," Land said. "I figured one less bill the city has to pay will suffice for me."
However, Councilman Frank Vierra expressed his concerns about eliminating city cell phones for the council.
"As of tonight or tomorrow, I will be just like everybody else -- nontransparent so that nobody on the council can look at my records anymore, which I think is wrong," he said during Tuesday's meeting. "I think anybody in this room should be able to see who we call."
City-paid cell phones are an appropriate way to allow openness to the public, he added.
Land responded by saying the phone records are very transparent, leading her to think that the council cell phones have been used for personal reasons instead of city business.
Later, City Manager Richard Warne mentioned that he pays for his own personal cell phone, instead of using one paid by the city.
"I don't want anybody to ever suggest that I'm inappropriately using government equipment for my own personal, private interests," he said.
For now, elected council members' phone numbers will remain up on the city's website. They'll soon all go to personal lines instead of city-provided phones.
Reporter Mike North can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.