DENVER (CBS4) – During 2 days-worth of critical legislative hearings into Colorado’s Corrections Department and Parole Division, one state senator at the hearings was regularly tweeting, surfing the Web and updating her Facebook page with information that had nothing to do with the hearings.
“I was very aware of what was going on,” insisted State Sen. Evie Hudak during an interview with CBS4.
The hearings, held Sept. 26 and 27, were conducted by the legislature’s joint judicial committee, tasked with looking into serious problems within the Parole Division and Department of Corrections.
“These are matters of life or death to be taken extremely seriously,” said Rep. Daniel Kagan, who chaired the hearings.
In full view of reporters and photographers, Hudak spent much of the time surfing the Web, checking out Facebook pages and tweeting and re-tweeting materials unrelated to the hearings unfolding in front of her.
She did post a number of updates via Twitter and Facebook about the legislative hearings, noting that the hearing room was packed and mentioning testimony she found noteworthy.
Asked by CBS4 if she posted any other information online during the hearings, Hudak initially responded, “I don’t remember.”
The CBS4 investigation cross-referenced her time during the hearings with her Facebook page and Twitter account. During key testimony she re-posted a picture of a painting from a museum to her Facebook page noting, “For those who could use a little art break now.”
A short time later she shared with her Facebook friends a quote from a yoga website: “When life is sweet, say thank you and celebrate, and when life is bitter, say thank you and grow.” Hudak commented online that it was “good advice.”
At other points she could be seen reading a newspaper editorial on a school board race, checking out a picture of the late actor Patrick Swayze on Facebook, or tweeting information completely unrelated to the testimony taking place in front of her.
She re-tweeted information about water being found on Mars, commenting, “Wow.” At another point she tweeted articles related to teachers, her support for education spending, and even re-tweeting criticism of a fellow lawmaker who was sitting just a few feet away from her. In several posts Hudak offered her input on Obamacare.
CBS4 showed Hudak records of her social media activities during the hearings. Hudak justified her Internet surfing and social media dabbling during the hearing by saying much of the testimony was repetitive.
“Some of it was very repetitious,” said Hudak. “People asked the same question over and over I thought and we got the same answer over and over.”
Hudak said she had served on the committee for several years before and so was versed in some of the information and felt the testimony from the Director of Corrections was more important for younger legislators to hear and focus on.
Asked if she should give important testimony her undivided attention, Hudak responded, “There are times when it actually helps me pay attention and not drift off to just kind of multi-task. So you know when I’m listening at all times if I’m hearing the same thing over and over I sometimes do other things but come back to it. I’m aware of all the information that was shared.”
She pointed out that legislators were provided written handouts that contained voluminous information and she said she also took notes. Legislators were paid to attend the hearings.
“I am trying to keep the public informed about things that are going on,” she said.
Hudak was asked if posting art pictures and yoga slogans keeps the public informed of legislative hearings.
“Okay, that was extraneous,” she replied.
Her dilemma is similar to that of Republican U.S. Sen. John McCain, who was caught last month playing poker on his smartphone during a congressional hearing on possible military action against Syria. McCain responded by tweeting, “Scandal! Caught playing iPhone game during 3+ hour Senate hearing — worst of all I lost.”
CBS4 checked Facebook pages and Twitter accounts for other state senators and representatives who attended last week’s judiciary hearings. None came close to the volume of online discourse of Sen. Hudak. CBS4 did find Rep. Mark Waller tweeted four times on an issue surrounding educational funding.
“Nobody could say I was not paying attention,” said Waller. ”It does happen. We all tweet.”
He said there were some aspects of the hearing he was more interested in than others. But Waller said the four brief tweets in about a half-hour period were his only online postings during the hearings.
Waller acknowledged leaving early on the first day of hearings noting he had a prior personal commitment that had been scheduled before the legislative hearings. He said the committee chairman was aware of the scheduling conflict.
– Written by Brian Maass for CBSDenver.com