Nor­we­gian Twp. adopts meet­ing record­ing pol­icy

The Republican Herald - - LOCAL - BY AMY MARCHI­ANO STAFF WRITER

MAR LIN — The Nor­we­gian Town­ship Board of Su­per­vi­sors adopted a pol­icy Mon­day re­gard­ing the record­ing of pub­lic meet­ings, but it might limit pub­lic ac­cess.

The pol­icy per­mits record­ing of the meet­ings by “tape, film or other means” if rules are ad­hered to.

A sec­tion of the pol­icy un­der rules of pro­ce­dure states: “no record­ings shall be al­lowed un­less the per­son seek­ing to record a pub­lic meet­ing no­ti­fies the sec­re­tary of the town­ship of his or her in­tent to record said meet­ing prior to the meet­ing. Fur­ther, any re­quests for spe­cial ac­com­mo­da­tions must be made at least two busi­ness days be­fore the meet­ing.”

Melissa Melewsky, me­dia law coun­sel for the Penn­syl­va­nia News­Me­dia As­so­ci­a­tion, said Fri­day that re­quir­ing the pub­lic to tell a gov­ern­men­tal body of an in­tent to record is “an un­nec­es­sary bar­rier to ac­cess.”

She said state law gives peo­ple the right to record meet­ings with no ex­tra gov­ern­men­tal per­mis­sion needed.

“It cre­ates is­sues un­der the Sun­shine Act. The Sun­shine Act al­ready pro­vides no­tice,” she said.

B. J. Evans, solic­i­tor for the town­ship, said Fri­day he did re­search be­fore draft­ing the pol­icy.

“I’m happy to re­con­sider it if it’s un­rea­son­able,” he said.

The town­ship does not de­sire to “cre­ate any un­nec­es­sary ac­cess to the meet­ings,” Evans said.

Su­per­vi­sors adopted the pol­icy af­ter res­i­dent Joe Kowalchick at­tended the Oc­to­ber meet­ing and asked about record­ing guide­lines. He wanted to pro­vide a way for se­nior cit­i­zens and the dis­abled to view su­per­vi­sors meet­ings.

He said pre­vi­ously that su­per­vi­sors said no.

Kowalchick at­tended the meet­ing Mon­day, video­taped it and asked ques­tions.

How­ever, be­fore he did, Evans told the au­di­ence that Kowalchick was record­ing the meet­ing.

Some mem­bers of the au­di­ence had a prob­lem with be­ing recorded; how­ever, Evans told them it is per­mit­ted.

“It’s a pub­lic meet­ing,” Evans said.

“We have noth­ing to hide here,” Su­per­vi­sor David Ge­orge said.

Some res­i­dents said what you view on­line might not be the whole truth. Kowalchick is go­ing to show the videos on Skook Town­hall Videos, a Face­book group.

Kowalchick said he isn’t out to show an un­truth­ful ver­sion of the meet­ing.

“I don’t have a prob­lem with you guys,” Kowalchick said.

Su­per­vi­sor Stan­ley Petchulis read a let­ter from the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union of Penn­syl­va­nia to the su­per­vi­sors last month. The let­ter says they re­ceived a com­plaint from Kowalchick about “for­bid­ding the record­ing of town­ship meet­ings.”

The let­ter lays out case law in sup­port of the record­ing of meet­ings. It re­quested the board al­low pri­vate cit­i­zens to record meet­ings. Le­gal ac­tion would oc­cur if Kowalchick was not per­mit­ted to record the meet­ing, the let­ter states.

Kowalchick asked sev­eral ques­tions at the meet­ing. He said Evans had ques­tioned his de­gree of dis­abil­ity at the Oc­to­ber meet­ing, some­thing Evans de­nied.

“I didn’t even know you’re dis­abled, Joe,” Evans said.

At one point, Kowalchick asked why the su­per­vi­sors didn’t make a mo­tion to ter­mi­nate Evans.

Ge­orge said if Kowalchick felt he was wronged he should talk to an at­tor­ney. He could also file a com­plaint. Kowalchick said Fri­day he has not done so yet.

Su­per­vi­sor Tom Dal­lago did not at­tend the meet­ing. Con­tact the writer: amarchi­ano@ re­pub­li­can­her­ald. com; 570- 628- 6028

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