In 2005, the Seymour, Conn., Board of Selectmen began forcing me as a videographer to “move (my) camera to the back of the room” and to “not video tape speakers” who asked to have the camera turned off when they were talking. The First Selectman also called the police to enforce his demand when I questioned the authority for such an order. Rules were then adopted by the selectmen that I appealed to the state’s Freedom of Information Commission. Eventually, FOI ruled the selectmen’s video taping regulations were “null and void” and fined the board $500 for their inappropriate actions. FOI said the board “was unreasonably targeting the complainant and subjecting him to arbitrary, and even, discriminatory treatment with respect to video taping … meetings.”
The Board of Selectmen then ignored the FOI order to adopt new rules and I filed a “non-compliance complaint” against the First Selectman that resulted in a favorable decision and an additional $500 fine. This entire matter was then appealed by the town to the Superior Court, and was finally withdrawn in November when the incumbent First Selectman lost his bid for re-election. Unfortunately, exorbitant legal fees cost taxpayers many thousands of wasted dollars.
A new Board of Selectmen and town counsel recently approved new rules that I have challenged because two FOI recommended principles were not included in the provisions:
1. “That people speaking at a public meeting … have no right to privacy, and that persons who attend and verbally participate must expect their statements and images may be recorded.”
2. “That restrictions on the use of the recorded product other than those currently existing in general law are not permitted.”
The current First Selectman promised to amend the rule nearly two months ago but has not yet done so.
This entire matter is like dealing with a third world country where liberties are assaulted in an attempt to protect political injustices.
Although the FOI and court cases have continued for nearly five years, I do not intend to allow the FOI recommendations to be ignored. People have a right to videotape public meetings and politicians do a disservice to their constituents by inappropriately restricting that right.
Readers can view several videos that further identify the restrictions implemented by the Town of Seymour’s Boards of Selectmen by clicking on the following links:
1st Town Policy adopted for video taping rules – 12/05
Loda recommends new video taping rules – 3/10
Board of Selectmen reject two FOI recommendations on taping rules – 4/10
1st Selectman agrees to amend video taping rules - 4/10