SEGUIN TWP. – Seguin is looking into recording council meetings.
Council considered its ban on the use of recording devices in public council sessions after receiving a request from the The Parry Sound North Star that the ban be lifted following a dispute over whether profanity was used during a meeting last month.
While the ban on individuals recording the proceedings remains in place, council is looking into the equipment needed to record proceedings for its own files.
The majority of council also spoke in favour of allowing the media to record audio during open council sessions, but a final decision hasn’t been made.
“I look at recording by the press as a little different than general recording,” said Coun. Bruce Gibbon.
Coun. Rod Osborne noted that both the provincial and federal governments have a verbatim record of meetings, as do many municipal governments.
“I don’t know what anybody in council would have in opposition to having it recorded,” he said. “You say your piece and pay the consequences.”
He speculated that having councillors’ statements recorded could increase council’s decorum, with fewer outbursts and snide comments, and would prevent any misinterpretation by media.
Mayor David Conn said that the township should control any recording of the council, noting that Hansard is a federal government institution providing recordings of the legislature. He also red-flagged the potential use of short clips of audio by the media and the ability to “doctor” tapes.
“I don’t mind the media taping, as long as we’re taping, too,” he said.
He stressed that the recording must include council, staff and the audience.
“So we can hear all those mumbles out there when they say ‘you jerks,’” he said with a laugh, motioning to the audience in front of him. “We can’t hear that now.”
Coun. Everett Jacklin liked the idea of recording all speakers so that comments made by councillors couldn’t be taken out of context.
The only member of council opposed to recording open meetings was Coun. Doug Sainsbury.
“We have open meetings here,” he said. “People are welcome to come and sit in the audience.”
Coun. Alex Chidley supported recording proceedings as the action of an open and accountable council, and asked whether the township will allow the media to record independently, or insist that media are to rely on the township’s files.
“We’re going to look at the options, Alex,” said Conn.
The township has microphones around the council table and at the podium for staff and visitors, but they aren’t generally used and aren’t hooked up to a recording device.
Township staff is investigating what is needed to make proper audio recordings.