The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio sent a letter to the Monroe County Commissioners today, requesting that they stop restricting residents from recording their meetings. During the May 8, 2006 meeting, a man attempted to set up a camera to record but commissioners proposed and passed a resolution barring cameras from the meeting by a vote of 2-1.
Commissioners who voted for the resolution contended that residents had a right to attend meetings, but not to record the proceedings. In the letter written by ACLU of Ohio Legal Director Jeffrey Gamso, he states that so long as the resident does not intend to disrupt the meetings, he should be able to record them.
“Residents of a community have a right to record public meetings,” said ACLU of Ohio Litigation Coordinator Gary Daniels. “The Ohio Attorney General’s Office, various Ohio courts and Ohio law are all clear on this issue.”
The ban on video cameras would not only include individuals, but would extend to media groups wishing to record the meetings. This could present a large hurdle for members of the media and community to obtain accurate information on the commissioners’ meetings.
Daniels added, “Bans such as this severely limit the amount and availability of information for residents regarding government happenings in their community. The Monroe County Commissioners have a responsibility to ensure their meetings are fully open for residents to attend and record the events.”
“Government is most effective when it can have an open dialogue on issues with the public, but laws such as this make that very difficult and could foster mistrust between the government and community,” continued Daniels.