Norwegian Twp. adopts meeting recording policy
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