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Connecticut town selectmen pause recording regulations

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Connecticut town selectmen pause recording regulations

  • Public outcry over the restrictive rules governing recording public meetings, designed to prevent “disturbances” by the news media, leads to review by the state FOI Commission.

Sep. 11, 2003 — The Board of Selectmen in Suffield, Conn., has temporarily suspended regulations that restrict the recording of public meetings, asking the state’s Freedom of Information Commission to hold a hearing on the issue.

The regulations, adopted unanimously by the board in December 2001, require those who record a public meeting to identify themselves, and that all recording equipment be placed at the back of the room or 20 feet from the panel’s table. In addition, any person making a recording must provide copies to any requester willing to pay for duplication and distribution.

Originally proposed to the board by town attorney Edward McAnaney, the regulations only recently gained public attention. On Aug. 20, McAnaney recommended to the Suffield Police Commission that it insert the taping regulations into its bylaws. According to The Hartford Courant, McAnaney said the purpose of the taping provisions was to prevent the news media from disrupting police commission meetings.

Area residents responded by writing numerous letters to the Courant in opposition of the regulations, and on Sept. 3 First Selectwoman Elaine Sarsynski recommended that Suffield’s boards and commissions suspend the taping rules, pending review by the state FOI Commission.

Attorney Ralph G. Elliot, a media lawyer in Hartford, stated that requiring individuals to identify themselves before taping a public meeting is unreasonable because it “serves no public purpose.” Moreover, Elliot said, any regulation that tends to “unnecessarily frustrate or interfere with taping a public meeting or compromised the quality of the recording” is an unreasonable regulation under state FOI law.

KM


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