Phillipsburg Town Council agreed to table a resolution involving the videotaping and recording of council meetings after members of the public and press raised concerns about it.
“The potential is here to do harm to the public,” said Brad Rinehart, WFMZ-TV news director, of the legislation. “…we’ll be doing a disservice to the people.”
Rinehart addressed council members about the restrictions noted in the ordinance, primarily language that stated that no more than two video recording devices could be used to tape meetings and that cameras would be prohibited from panning the room and must remain focused on council.
Residents agreed with Rinehart.
Calling parts of the legislation “petty” and “thin-skinned,” resident Tom Bush questioned the rationale behind the stringent regulations.
“It seems childish and a response to a guy with a camera and a guy with a big mouth,” Bush said.
The “guy with the camera” being Blaine Fehley, who videotapes every council meeting for his website “Phillipsburg Raw,” and the “big mouth” being himself.
Not the case, said Councilman John Lynn
“This council doesn’t try to hide anything,” he noted, adding that he fully supported town council meetings being videotaped.
Lynn then introduced three amendments – one to grant an exception to legitimate news media to videotape the proceedings above the two camera limit, and one to allow cameras to scan the room – and a third amendment that would eliminate the requirement that a camera must have its own power source to tape the meetings.”
He added that it was important to him that a section of the ordinance, which states that video recording “is not permitted to commence until the meeting has been called to order and must cease at the adjournment of the meeting,” remain.
After much discussion, Councilman James Stettner suggested tabling the measure for further debate at the next council work session. Lynn agreed and introduced the motion for continuance, which passed 5-0.
Council work sessions are normally scheduled for the second Tuesday of the month.
No calendar was listed on the town’s webpage with a meeting schedule as of Tuesday night.