Lauren Berkowitz censured over use of Twitter in Burien City Council sessions


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Screenshot from Monday night’s Burien City Council meeting during a discussion about Councilmember Lauren Berkowitz being censured for Tweeting. Note what the police officer is doing in the background.

By Jack Mayne

After several previous attempts, on Monday night Burien Councilmember Bob Edgar managed to get a majority of the Council to support his attempt to censure outgoing Councilmember Lauren Berkowitz for using social media during Council sessions.

The motion was approved 4 to 3.

At the beginning of the study session Monday night (Oct. 23), Edgar moved to add a “topic to censure” but said that the subject of the proposed censure would be revealed “at the proper time.” It was really no surprise, because the same move had been attempted by Edgar in the past. Deputy Mayor Nancy Tosta said that not knowing who was potentially to be censured was a problem, but Mayor Lucy Krakowiak asked for a vote on the addition and the Council voted 4 to 3 to add the issue to the agenda.

City Attorney Lisa Marshall said admonition of censure carries no additional penalty beyond a public vote and verbal comments.

Edgar said he wanted once again to censure Berkowitz “for repeated failure” to meet Council guidelines to refrain from posting on social media during Council sessions. She regularly Tweets on Twitter during meetings. The motion was seconded by Councilmember Debi Wagner.

While Berkowitz claims she has a constitutional right to free speech, Edgar said the Council can place limits on the use of popular media during meetings and the Council’s adopted guidelines do place such restrictions, which Berkowitz appears to ignore. Berkowitz said she will continue to use social media during meetings and decried the constant attempts by Edgar to stop her.

“The only way people would know (about the censure motion) was because I tweeted about it.” She added that her comments on Twitter and Facebook are collected by the city and are public records.

Deputy Mayor Nancy Tosta says she finds it “horrifying that Councilmembers continue to attack each other. It is inappropriate and not in the public’s interest.” She added that Berkowitz is serving the public who cannot attend meetings by telling them via Twitter about what is happening.

“What is our interest in curtailing her?” Tosta asked the Council.

Some residents told the Council they got useful information from Tweets, including Berkowitz’s and one resident said “she is almost gone” referring to the end of her term in January.

Here are some of the Tweets sent out by Berkowitz during the meeting:

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