Charleston City Council is grappling with a series of "how to communicate in the modern age" questions inside its nearly two-century-old Council Chambers where the stoic painted faces of such men as Gen. George Washington and former President James Monroe stare down.

That includes how to govern cellphones, text messaging, laptops and iPads that are accessed by those doing the public's business.

The issue surfaced last month during what started off as a seemingly simple discussion about the ritual adoption of the body's governing rules.

City Councilman Mike Seekings, an attorney, pointed out that one of the rules being reconsidered -- if taken literally -- means that no council member could accept a mobile device message while sitting in the chamber, even if the device is on "silent" mode. That includes text messages.

The rule states "in no event shall any person communicate on a two-way radio, mobile phone or other communication device during any city meeting."

Any person who violates the prohibition faces being removed from the chamber and not being allowed to return, "unless absent the offending device," the rule states.

"It says no communication of any mobile device during a City Council meeting," Seekings said. "That's impractical and not up-to-date."

Some of the rules are so seemingly last century that Seekings questioned whether the news media will be able to use a laptop equipped with email during a council meeting, or face being removed.

Seekings was joined in the discussion by City Councilman William Dudley Gregorie, who said receiving a contact from his ill mother during a council meeting would be a violation.

"Under the current guidelines, I couldn't take the call," he said.

The issue of in-chambers communication is expected to be brought up again by the council later this month. Seekings said he would like to also see the city discuss the idea of supplying laptop or iPad-type devices for the council, to both cut down on the amount of paper clutter and make communication easier.

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551.