Less than 24 hours after leading a walkout at the Green Mountain Falls board meeting Sept. 18, Howard Price was still riled up. He wasn't the only one.
For Price and trustees Mac Pitrone and Ralph LoCasio, the live streaming of board meetings flaunts Robert's Rules of Order.
“The board was never asked about this live streaming,” Price said. “Nobody has the authority to just do what they want without board approval”
While not objecting to the live streaming in itself, Price was disdainful of the editing liberties taken by the videographer who injected commercials into the stream. Viewers were then asked to pay a fee to skip the commercials.
For Price, the attempt to extract a fee is reprehensible and compounds what he views as an infraction of the rules that govern public meetings. For instance, the unidentified citizen, or a representative, failed to appear before the board to request that the meetings be videotaped.
“I don't like the fact that this was shoved down our throats,” he said, adding that he was never told who the citizen was, despite asking the question.
While Price, Pitrone and LoCascio may be upset about not being given the opportunity to vote on the issue, according to two attorneys who advise newspapers on the Colorado Open Meetings Law, Mayor Lorrie Worthey was within her rights in allowing the live-streaming procedure.
“There is nothing in the statute that requires or prohibits videotaping of a public meeting and we have generally taken the position for the Colorado Press Association that so long as a meeting is open to the public and any videotaping is done without disturbing the meeting there should be no prohibition on electronic recordings of the meeting,” states Christopher Beall, attorney with Levine Sullivan Koch & Schultz in Denver. “Whether the live streaming is being done by a private citizen or the town itself is immaterial. Moreover, there is no basis under the COML for the town trustees to object to anyone broadcasting a videotape of a public meeting.”
Mark Caramanica, Freedom of Information Director for The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press writes, after reading the article in the Sept. 25 edition of the Courier about the board meeting Sept. 18: “Transparent action would be to favor public recordings, especially when the act of recording does not materially disrupt the proceedings.”
While the identity of the videographer, or to whom the equipment belonged, was not discussed in the article, nor was the identity of the commercial advertiser released, Caramanica continues: “It certainly raises constitutional concerns if decisions about what members of the public are permitted to record are being made based on the identity of the individual doing the recording or the use to which the recording is put. Government officials should not be making such content and viewpoint-based discriminatory judgments.”