One of the items on the September agenda was a proposed ordinance that Judge Charles Willett distributed to J-Ps in August to consider. It proposed allowing the news media to record meetings, but not citizens. In fact, the ordinance appeared to deny citizens the right to make audio recordings of meetings or take photographs, rights the state Freedom of Information Act already clearly allows.
Willett began the discussion by appearing to back away from the proposed ordinance, that Freedom of Information experts had criticized as violating the FOIA in many ways. Willett suggested that the Quorum Court tape its own meetings, and place them in the library to give the public access to them. But several speakers told the court over and over that the news media and the public have the right to video tape meetings themselves, and that the Quorum Court was the only known body in the state to ban video recording of a public meeting.
After a long discussion, J-P Cris Newberry asked, "Are there any problems with video taping in other counties that justify restrictions on video taping here?"
County Attorney Dwayne Plumlee said it was a matter of rules. 12 people with cameras could line up and block the view of the audience.
Newberry suggested allowing video taping and seeing if there will be problems.
Newberry finally made a motion to allow anyone to video record Quorum Court meetings, after a decision is made as to where the cameras will be located. He later amended the motion to include the possibility that Quorum Court also record meetings, if it chooses.
The motion passed when eight J-Ps voted to allow video recording. J-P Michael Barnett abstained, declining to take a position.
Because of a press deadline, an in depth story about the Quorum Court meeting and its decision on video recording will appear in the Sept. 20 issue of The News.