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Westlock County tests audio system for recording meetings

Potentially terminating the recordings was a point of issue for councillors
WES county spring 2020
Recordings of Westlock County council meetings are in the works, and will be made available to the public via their website. In the meantime, councillors work through the terms of their policy, raising issues about the censorship of material. Andreea Resmerita/Westlock News

Westlock County councillors began testing systems for recording council meetings May 26.

One point in the policy, however, which outlines who can terminate the recording of a meeting, brought to the fore a discussion on whether or not that should be done in the first place.

“If it’s an open meeting, we should have it online as if people were there. You’re never really going to terminate the recording unless it’s something super serious, but in that case maybe you have to go in-camera,” said Coun. Isaac Skuban.

Originally, the policy read that “at any time during a meeting, the chair (and the chief administrative officer) has the discretion and authority to direct the termination or interruption of audio recording if they believe it is advisable to do so.”

They can also exclude parts of the meeting from the recording that were defamatory, infringe copywrite, breach privacy, are offensive or constitute discrimination and vilification.

To Skuban, however, the meeting should be presented in its online recorded format as it took place in-person.

“At the end of the day I think we’re public servants and we need to conduct ourselves professionally in a council meeting and if we don’t while it’s being recorded, it’s 2020, it’s going to be online anyways for your residents to talk about,” he said.

“We’re accountable to the public. More transparency is always better.”

Coun. Victor Julyan echoed that sentiment: “I think we should be reminding ourselves that we have a parliament and we are expecting them to behave in a certain way and it’s up to us to behave. I don’t think we should be censoring it, myself.”

For Coun. Jared Stitsen, it was also a matter of process.

“If we had to stop or we wanted to cut out a portion of the council meeting because someone spoke offensively or some of the criteria there, would we stop it right at that time, or at the end of the council meeting we would ask administration to remove the vulgar parts of the council meeting? How would that work?” he asked.

Those types of questions, he said, should be answered by the policy and not left up to council in the moment.

Reeve Lou Hall, however, thought that this particular action wouldn’t be taken frequently, judging from past experience.

“I’m not too sure that we need to read too much into this. All it’s doing is recording exactly what is being said and how it’s being said for all to hear. … I’m not sure why we need to be too strict on this one,” she said.

It was a discussion that originally began when Coun. Brian Coleman described the paragraph on authority to terminate as “confusing.”

Instead of the authority lying with the chair and CAO, councillors agreed it will be done “at the discretion of council.”

The conditions for termination remained unchanged.

Andreea Resmerita,
Follow me on Twitter @andreea_res