Hamblen County Commissioners Send All Cameras to the Back of the Room

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Hamblen County commissioners recently adopted a policy mandating that anyone recording commission meetings with cameras, video equipment or other recording devices must stand in the back of the room.

The Tennessee Coalition for Open Government has criticized the policy.

But County Commissioner Tim Goins told The Tennessee Star this week that “it’s not a big deal” and “some people were complaining” about people up front making too many noises.

Commissioners speak into microphones, meaning everyone in the room should already hear or capture audio on their recording devices, Goins said.

“This is not a threat to government transparency,” Goins said.

“We want transparency. We want all that good stuff.”

County Commissioner Wayne Nesmith told The Star the local cable company televises their county commission meetings.

Nesmith also said, however, County Mayor Bill Brittain does not want recording devices in the room.

“The mayor doesn’t want anybody recording our commission meetings. In my opinion you should be recording all committee meetings, budget meetings, jail study commission meetings, any meeting the county is doing, they need to be recorded,” Nesmith said.

“I’m not sure why. My gut feeling is they don’t want the people in the county knowing what’s going on in commission meetings. That’s my gut feeling anyway.”

Brittain did not return The Star’s repeated requests for comment.

According to the TCOG’s website, commissioners aimed this new policy at Linda Noe, described as “a frequent open government advocate and a former county commissioner who uses her video camera to record the commission’s committee meetings.”

TCOG Executive Director Deborah Fisher said on the organization’s website it “does appear the solution is targeted to the wrong problem and creates a new one in the process.”

“The issue that the commission is trying to address by admission of its own members is not the video recording itself, but the alleged ‘disruption’ caused by comments made by the operator,” Fisher wrote.

“In addition, by moving everyone who wants to record to the back of the room, including news reporters who may wish to get a clip of a key commission discussion or vote, the commission is effectively preventing recordings when it is too far back for an ordinary recorder to pick up what’s being said by commission members.”

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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Hamblen County Government” by Hamblen County. 

 

 

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