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Meeting Recordings Coming in Haddonfield, Like It or Not

Although this is not Haddon Twp it certainly is along our discussions for taping the meetings.


Members of the Haddonfield Civic Association (HCA) have announced plans this week to start video recording the town’s school board meetings. The school board members, while not thrilled with the idea, said at their meeting last Thursday that they know the organization’s plan is moving forward. Board president Steve Weinstein said that they had wanted to discuss the Civic Association’s recording plans with them. Unfortunately, the Civic Association’s meeting night coincided with the board meeting. Civic Association vice president Bill Tourtellotte said that the organization has been moving forward with video plans over the summer. This summer, HCA began recording meetings of the Haddonfield Board of Commissioners and making them available for viewing over the Internet on their website, haddonfieldcivic.com. Weinstein told his board that whether they like the concept or not, the board can’t stop the recording. New Jersey case law makes it clear that governing bodies, like school boards and municipal commissions and councils, can’t prohibit the public from recording meetings. In a 2007 case, Tarus v. Pine Hill, the NJ Supreme Court held that “subject to reasonable restrictions,” the public has a right to videotape meetings in New Jersey. And “although some citizens may be fearful of video cameras, we find that consideration insufficient to deny the right to videotape. Further, no right of privacy protects a citizen’s public comments.” Weinstein noted, though, that the court also found that the public’s right to videotape meetings is neither absolute nor unqualified. That means that a public body, like the school board can impose reasonable guidelines. Such guidelines can include restrictions on the number and positioning of cameras, lighting, and the location of the person operating the equipment. They can also include restrictions designed to control noise levels and prevent damage to public facilities. Several board members, like Drew Hansen, said they were uncomfortable with the idea that students could come to meetings and end up on public recordings. Unfortunately, said Weinstein, he has checked with the board’s solicitor. If students come to a board meeting and speak their minds, it’s public. The board already has a policy (Bylaw #168) about recordings that specifies that they must be unobtrusive and not distract others from proceedings. Another concern, said board member Cheryl Laney, is that cameras might encourage grandstanding, allowing individuals to use the public venue to promote ideas and impress others. Weinstein said under the board bylaws, the organization would have to provide the board with advance notice of its plans. He could also contemplate some kind of notice to the public about the taping at the beginning of each meeting. For the organization, Tourtellotte said that HCA’s core mission is to make people more aware of what’s going on in the community. As the video recording project is still in its development stages, he believes HCA’s taping and Internet strategies will need some tweaking. Long-term, he knows that while public bodies won’t initially be comfortable with taping, they will “come to trust it.” About recording children who might speak up at meetings – as they regularly do at borough commission meetings – HCA doesn’t want an “adversarial relationship,” noted Tourtellotte. Personally, he said he shared the school board members’ concerns about identifying children in recordings. As a group, he believes HCA is open to suggestions. Members of the public at last Thursday’s meeting seemed to like the recording idea. Resident Rhonda Ellis noted that the board has been working hard for the past two years at better public outreach. Viewing meetings over the Internet could be a boon to many people who are too busy to attend. “People want to know what’s going on,” she said. – Copyright 2009 The Retrospect


6 Responses

  1. Another governmental entity that isn’t thrilled with being transparent. Unreal.

    Let me take the opportunity to give a lawsuit update. We had a court date on Monday. We spend about an hour listening to the tape from 2/3/09 special meeting where they had a full budget discussion meeting which wasn’t advertised as open to the public. Every department head attended but the public wasn’t invited. We also listened to my questioning of the commissioners during the second half of the meeting about the 5 secret meeting identified from the legal bills where I questioned the mayor and he stated that the meetings occurred.

    After listening to the recording, the judge decided that closing arguments be submitted in writing. The town’s response is due a week from this Monday and my response is due 2 weeks after that. The judge will rule by early November.

  2. Thanks for the update. Interesting to hear that the mayor stated the secret meetings occurred. If the courts find that your allegations are correct I think the mayor should resign as should Klineburger because of the alleged corrupt illegal behavior that a guilty verdict would suggest.
    makes you wonder how many secret meetings they had that are still secret! think about the money that flows through town in terms of contracts, steetscapes, sewer system repairs, and so on. Major question of corruption if they are having secret meetings!

    thanks for you personal efforts to expose this dirty dirty political stuff. It’s embarrassing that Randy Teague and Paul Dougherty are allegedly involved in this, but at least we still have a chance to do the right thing and demand their resignations after the court verdict. Just look at Haddon Heights — do you know if that solicitor had a relationship with Paul Dougherty and Haddon Township last year? Just wondering.

  3. TC,

    Again……..you use a forum about Haddonfield and video taping meetings to soap box your legal issues with the commisioners.

    Stay on topic…..if you have a burning need to vent about your dollar burning lawsuit with the Township, do as JS has done ang start your own blog.

    See how many hits you will have.

  4. I guess Jen unblocked you. Nice to have you back.

  5. The technology is pretty widely available now to enable towns (or private citizens, in the case of Haddonfield) to post their public meetings on line.

    It would be a good start towards building the public’s capacity to participate more effectively in civic matters. I’m all for it.

  6. Here is the question: did Randy Teague and Paul Dougherty break the laws as alleged by Cassel in the lawsuit?

    yes or no?
    guess courts will let us know soon.

    It would have been nice to have video the meeting where Randy raged and screamed at Cassel and had the police remove him. at video of when the seniors called randy out on his untruths about housing appointments.

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