TOWN OF NIAGARA – A Town Board member’s attempt to video record the Thursday work session were foiled when some other members objected to being caught on camera.
When Councilman Robert Clark set up a small digital video camera on a shelf in the conference room prior to the meeting, fellow Councilman Danny Sklarski said he needed permission to record the proceedings. Sklarski said any electronic recording of the meeting required prior board approval.
Clark said the session was an open public meeting and could be recorded. He mentioned that reporters and others were in attendance and were allowed to take notes. Sklarski said written notes were OK but “electronic devices should be denied.” He was joined by Councilman Charles Teixeira who noted that, in some situations, subjects who are recorded are asked to sign releases.
Deputy Supervisor Marc Carpenter, who noted he had “no problem being recorded” said he used to record board meetings himself years ago.
One issue was that any such recording could later be claimed to be a verbatim version of the meeting. Town Attorney Michael Risman said because of modern technological techniques in video editing, the accuracy of any low quality camera recording could be questioned, and that Clark’s recording, which was “not a sworn tape,” could be altered.
He said later that the issue was not related to any legal open meetings law but rather the board’s own policy. Any recording or tape of a board meeting needed to be “done through a properly designated procedure for the protection of the public and the board.” He noted the many Buffalo Common Council meetings he has attended have been officially recorded.
One way to ensure the accuracy of a video recording would be to have the town clerk take minutes at the meeting, according to Supervisor Steven Richards. Richards said no minutes are now taken at the sessions, but actions are relayed by him to the clerk so the regular meeting agenda can reflect any changes.
Clark said he wanted to record the session because “the record changes from Thursday [when the work sessions take place] to Tuesday [regular board meetings].” He added that he wanted to record the session for “people who can’t attend” or were “afraid to attend.”
Richards also said he was suspicious of Clark’s motivation.
“I don’t trust [Clark] at all,” he said later. “It can be modified to manipulate the record.”
He said if Clark wanted to record the session, he would have the clerk attend to take minutes.
In another matter, Sklarski and Clark continued a dispute over the $30,000 bill for the demolition of a house that was determined to be a safety hazard.
Sklarski said he was still waiting for the report from the building inspector on what happened when the home at 3045 Petroleum St. was torn down May 12. The demolition was approved by telephone by four councilmen.
However, the bill, which included air testing, was never entered as a property lien and the property was later sold by Niagara County, according to the discussion. The county has since refused to take responsibility for the expense because no paperwork was filed in time.
Sklarski said he wanted to know who authorized the demolition and what steps were taken regarding the bill.
Richards said he has been contacted for payment by the Mark Cerrone Inc., the company that demolished the house, every month since the work was done.
Building Inspector Charles Haseley said he had contacted the board and the attorney about the matter and all procedures were “followed to a ‘T’.”
Sklarski said he would have a resolution prepared for Tuesday to resolve the issue.