Videotaping public meetings
This has long been a sore subject for our fair city, and it’s a moot point as of now, since we can all video tape practically anything public without concern. As long as it doesn’t disrupt the proceedings, we’re free to go.
Here’s the story (from ZDNet Government), and below, read how Hoboken’s resolution restricting taping at the Board of Education meetings is in violation of the law.
Dust off the camcorders if you wish!
NJ court: Citizens may videotape government meetings
The New Jersey Supreme Court issued a wake-up all to state and local governments this week: Wake up – it’s the YouTube era.
Robert Wayne Tarus was arrested after he tried to videotape two Pine Hill Borough Council meetings in 2000. Yesterday the state Supreme Court ruled that governments can’t unreasonably stop citizens from videotaping public meetings, although local governments may impose “reasonable guidelines” to ensure taping doesn’t interrupt the body’s business, The Star-Ledger reports.
“For any town that wants to rule with an iron fist, this puts them all on notice they can no longer do that and reaffirms the protection for every resident in the state of New Jersey,” said Tarus, who works as a trucking company manager. “Knowledge is power and any time anyone wants to cut the flow of information or squeeze it, it should be looked at.”
Chief Justice James Zazzali wrote that citizen-recording results in an “openness (that) reduces public corruption.”
“Openness is a hallmark of democracy — a sacred maxim of our government — and video is but a modern instrument in that evolving pursuit,” Zazzali wrote. “The use of modern technology to record and review the activities of public bodies should marshal pride in our open system of government, not muster suspicion against citizens who conduct the recording.”
Public bodies “may impose reasonable guidelines to ensure that the recording of meetings does not disrupt the business of the body or other citizens’ right of access,” the court said. Such rules must be neutral and reasonable and limited.
New Jersey officials haven’t always been in favor of open government.
- In Piscataway, for instance, Clara Halper, whose family is embroiled in a dispute with township officials over their family-owned Cornell Dairy Farm, claimed a councilman tried to grab a video camera from her hand at a public meeting several years ago.
- Tina Renna, a critic of the Union County government, had a run-in with freeholders last month over her plans to videotape budget hearings because of concerns the room was too small. The county later videotaped the proceedings and made tapes available.
“It was absurd, the reasons they gave me for not allowing to tape the budget hearings — they just didn’t want me to do it,” said Renna, who in light of the decision plans to videotape other freeholder meetings not being recorded by the county. “They cannot keep the doors closed anymore because people like me are out there and with very little money can … record their meetings better than they can.”
Ed Barocas, American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, said: “Just as important as the specifics of the opinion … was the general recognition of New Jersey’s long-standing tradition of ensuring openness and access to government information,” he said. “This case is going to be referred to in the future on such issues.”
See how the BOE resolution is invalid now:
Hoboken Board of Education
Policy Authorizing the Videotaping of the public Portion of the Meeting of the Hoboken Board of Education by Private Citizens and Setting the Procedures and regulations for Videotaping
WHEREAS a request has been made by a private citizen to make a videotape of the Board meeting of the Hoboken Board of Education; and
WHEREAS, the Board finds that the citizens of a democracy are best served when public meetings are open and free to all: and
WHEREAS, the Board has determined that the videotaping of the Board meetings by private citizens, with proper safeguards adhered to, is beneficial to citizen participation in local government; and
WHEREAS, the Board is concerned that videotaping may be disruptive or intimidated members (court found this claim to be totally unfounded and selfserving to the public body) of the public and discourage them from speaking or participating. The Board is also concerned that such a videotape may be edited or otherwise tampered with to the detriment of the public (the public body has no right to control private property).
NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, by the Hoboken Board of Education, that private citizen videotaping of the public portions of the meetings of the Hoboken Board of Education is hereby permitted, subject to the regulations set forth below. These regulations shall not apply to journalists or members of the news media (no longer allowed),.
- Videotaping shall not be permitted to interfere, obstruct, or otherwise disturb the proceedings.
- All videotaping must be done in a unobtrusive manner. No artificial photographic lighting shall be permitted. The equipment use must be operated silently.
- Video equipment must be positioned at the back of the counsel room, or such other location designated by the Board, so as not to obstruct or interfere with the view or participation of others in the meetings. (why regulated to the back of the room? especially in city hall—whereas tv cameras have been allowed in the front.)
- In order to enable the Hoboken board of Education to insure the accuracy of such videotapes, a person intending to video tape a Board meeting must giver prior written notice to the Board Secretary’s office by 3:00 pm on the day of the meeting, and must agree to provide the Board with an unedited copy of the tape within 5 business days of the meeting without cost to the Board. Failure to comply with this requirement shall be grounds for denying future taping. (shouldn’t be allowed any longer – especially the copy for free)
- the Hoboken Board of Education has the right to suspend taping should a member of the public object to the recording of their public comments especially as they relate to individuals students or other personal issues regarding the children of the City of Hoboken (no longer allowed),. A statement shall be made at each meeting advising the members of the public that they have the right to request that the videotaping device be turned off during their comments. The Board shall also have the right to suspend taping should it interfere, obstruct, or otherwise disturb the proceedings (no longer allowed),. Executive sessions of the Board shall not be taped.