Those of you that follow the Lumberton Infomer Facebook page, know I started uploading video clips from the meetings. I started taping the meetings, or portions of the meetings, because there's a group of individuals, namely the ones serving on the board, that want people to believe I was making things up. So, in order to avoid accusations of twisting the truth, I started taping parts of the meeting. I recently upgraded my cellphone and I'm thinking of either using it or the tablet to start taping the meetings in their entirety because now the elected officials and the city clerk are saying I'm taking things out of context. The utter ridiculousness of their accusations. If they spent a fraction of the time looking for ways to grow industry instead of monitoring my activities, they might be somewhat productive. The other day, when going into the office to get permission to view the public records, I noticed this sign (picture above) posted at the counter. Now, at what meeting was this ordinance implemented because I apparently missed the meeting and the public hearing. It seems that our city clerk, Merlene Wall, has some control issues. She's so busy trying to micromanage everyone and everything, she can't get her work completed. Again I will ask, what is she trying to hide. There are those that say I'm being a little rough on the little, old lady. Well, I disagree. I had no qualms with Merlene until she started spreading the rumor that I had planted recording devices in the executive session room; which gave her the justification to prohibit citizen access to the public records room. Once again, the utter ridiculousness of these accusations. Is that all you can do with your post-menopausal brain; sit around and look for something you can try to control? When I first saw these control issues emerge, I brushed them off as being organized but month after month, there's more and more hoops to jump through. For instance, when she started, I thought it was a great idea to print on the front and back of the agenda. Actually, that is a great idea and a cost saving measure on her part. Kudos for that vision, but then she's so tenacious, that she want everyone to sign a sheet, with not dates or anything indicating it's for a board meeting, before they can get a copy of the agenda. Control issues. She said an alderperson wanted her to start recording the data of those attending. Well, here's a suggestion, look up from where you're sitting and you will see who's attending the board meeting. We give people an inch and they want to take a foot, you give them a foot and they want a mile, you give them a mile and next thing you know, they're in the driver's seat. Zora Neale Hurston (one of my favorite authors) said it best,
"If you are silent about your pain they will kill you and say you enjoyed it."Everyone that knows me, know that I am far from silent.
Now, according Mississippi Attorney General Opinion 2006-00021
"A board may develop reasonable rules regarding taping and/or recording of its public meetings, a flat prohibition against taping is unreasonable and violates the intent of the open meetings laws.”Once again, this administration is in clear violation of the laws set forth for the governance of a code charter municipality. I'm beginning to wonder if these people that are supposedly working for the City of Lumberton (elected and employed) bother to read guidelines regarding their positions or do they not care that they are breaking the laws. Well, I, for one, have grown weary of trying to INFORM them of their duties and responsibilities. As a matter of fact, I have contacted the Mississippi Ethics Commission regarding this administrations' blatant disregard for the laws regarding open meeting and public records. The fact that we, the general public, cannot view approved minutes months after the board meeting is a clear indication of a vacuous city clerk. It's unacceptable and no one, including the mayor, seems to think this is problematic. There's no excuse for not getting the minutes compiled in a timely fashion. The day after the board meeting is the opportune time to sit down and type up the minutes because the events are fresh on your mind. Why do you think I type the review of the board meeting the next day? Because I can look at my notes and know what happened instead of trying to rely on memory months later.
In case the link is not working properly, here's the text of the Mississippi Attorney General Opinion 2006-00021 in regards to video of public meetings. I must admit, no one has attempted to stop me from recording the board meetings, the sign was posted at the counter in the clerk's office. So, I would like to think if there's nothing prohibiting the taping of board meetings, the same would apply when it comes to the clerk's office. As a matter of fact, if there's a privacy issue, why am I always getting texts about husband's being in the office for extended periods of times. Now, that seems to be more of a violation of privacy/personal information since they are allegedly behind the counter with direct access to customer's vital billing information.
Re: Video of public meeting
P.O. Drawer 70
Tupelo, MS 38802-0070
Dear Mr. Carnathan:
Attorney General Jim Hood has received your opinion request and has assigned it to me for research and reply.
Your letter states and asks the following:
The City of Verona meets on a regular basis and a gentleman appears at the meeting with a camera and conducts a video of the entire Board meeting. It is not known by the Board for what purpose or use the video is being obtained.
Everyone is aware that the meetings are public; however, the Board desires that you render an opinion as to whether or not they can be videoed by a private individual for purposes unknown.
In response, as you correctly point out, the monthly meetings of Verona city officials are public meetings and fall under the Mississippi Open Meetings Act, Section 25-41-1, et seq., of the Mississippi Code. Generally speaking, the public may attend such meetings and take notes, photographs, and video or audiotape of the proceedings.
This office has issued several opinions addressing the tape recording of public meetings, and has looked to Section 25-41-9, which allows a public body to develop reasonable rules and regulations concerning the conduct of their meetings. MS AG Op., Smith (August 8, 2006); MS AG Op., Scott (November 20, 1991); MS AG Op., Garrett (May 3, 1990) (copies attached). In those opinions we opined that “while a board may develop reasonable rules regarding taping and/or recording of its public meetings, a flat prohibition against taping is unreasonable and violates the intent of the open meetings laws.”
While we have not specifically addressed permissible purposes for audio and video recording, it is the opinion of this office that the citizen's/public's purpose or intended use for the recording has no bearing on whether same should be allowed. Indeed, to attempt to limit the use of any such recording, or to prohibit recording unless it is for a specific enumerated reason, would clearly violate the intent of the Open Meetings Law.
Therefore, it is the opinion of this office that the Board may develop rules concerning the tape recording of its meetings to allow for minimal disruption thereof, but may not limit or restrict such recordings based upon the person's purpose in making the recording.
If this office may be of further assistance to you, please let us know.
By: Ellen O'neal
Special Assistant Attorney General
Again, please note that it clearly and emphatically stated that,
"While a board may develop reasonable rules regarding taping and/or recording of its public meetings, a flat prohibition against taping is unreasonable and violates the intent of the open meetings laws.”Now, I included the text to show what is posted on the Attorney General's website and to silence the haters once again. I didn't twist the words or the statement; I gave it to you the way it was presented. So, can we stop with the slick talk about how I don't know what I'm talking about. On the contrary, I know exactly what I'm talking about; unfortunately, the ones on the City of Lumberton payroll are the ones in the dark. Hopefully, the Mississippi Ethics Commission will help them see the light. Cioa!