After a last-minute motion last week, people attending Lantzville meetings are now prohibited from recording meetings unless given the green light by the district.
Coun. Will Geselbracht introduced an emergency motion at the District of Lantzville’s March 9 meeting, seeking to prohibit the public from recording any part of meetings with electronic audio, or audio visual devices except as authorized by council. The motion stems from a Feb. 24 zoning bylaw hearing live-streamed on Facebook by a member of the gallery.
“[While we had] our meeting, which was a public meeting – which is the proper place for the discussion of the zoning bylaw or any items – at the same time, a parallel meeting [was] going on in the public,” Geselbracht said. “The problem is we have an authorized recording device here so that you get to see the whole meeting and what’s said. With an unauthorized recording, that can be edited … You have people weighing in, you have people either getting angry, or commenting and it’s not taking place in the public meeting.”
Mayor Mark Swain said councillors can call point of privilege should someone be in their face with a camera. Coun. Karen Proctor said that is only so effective.
“We can’t call point of privilege about being filmed if we don’t know we’re being filmed and I think I’ll just leave it simply at that,” said Proctor.
Swain expressed concerns about the motion, as did Coun. Ian Savage, who stated it has a number of flaws.
“I’m unaware of any other jurisdiction that bans the public from recording with their cellphones; it’s perfectly normal with public events,” Savage said at the meeting. “The public is welcome to video it … I see no reason whatsoever why the public can’t tape our meetings. In my mind, it’s simply not a problem.”
Coun. Jamie Wilson said he doesn’t have an issue with being live-streamed, but the issues relate to recordings being done in a professional manner. He wouldn’t get into specifics when asked by the News Bulletin about the social media video, but said commentary being made during the video was not fair to the process.
The motion was amended, but a copy of the amendment wasn’t available. Wilson also told the News Bulletin the district will look into recording meetings in a fashion similar to City of Nanaimo and Regional District of Nanaimo.
“We’re looking into having a professionally done method of recording meetings where it can be live-streamed to the public,” Wilson said to the News Bulletin. “I think that’s fair. The public deserves that and we’ll work towards that. It’s where we’ve moved to, people want the information like that. I think it’s good, but let’s make sure it’s done professionally and fairly.”
Swain said council has authority to limit recordings within chambers if it sees fit. When asked about how people could receive authorization, he said policy and procedure have not been established yet, but one way could be through a request to the district office.
“As for permitting someone on an ongoing basis, that’s something yet to be discussed by council as we don’t have a policy in place to really deal with this,” Swain said.
If Lantzville residents are concerned about the new motion, Swain said they should write council to express their views.
Geselbracht was out of town, but in an e-mail, said it is council’s duty to control its own process and preserve integrity of how meetings are recorded. He also said it would “prevent distracting beeps and lights from hand-held recording devices during a live meeting.”
In an e-mail, the B.C. Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing told the News Bulletin it has no legislative role in approving municipal meeting policies or procedure bylaws.
Under the B.C. community charter, municipalities must adopt a bylaw establishing procedures for how council conducts business, said the ministry, and it is up to local government to establish rules for managing meetings, which includes use of audio-video recording of meetings and seating arrangements.
Geselbracht, Wilson and Proctor voted in favour of the motion; Savage and Swain voted against.