• December 20, 2014

City officials ban video cameras from hearing

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Posted: Thursday, April 25, 2013 4:30 am | Updated: 10:50 pm, Fri Apr 26, 2013.

Barbara Gonzales, the Killeen finance director fired in December, opted to have her grievance hearing be an open public meeting.

But minutes before the hearing began Wednesday, city officials told those with video cameras, including the Killeen Daily Herald, they wouldn’t be able to record.

Officials allowed photography and audio recordings, but said they could ban video because the hearing didn’t meet the requirements of the state’s open meetings law.

According to the law: “A person in attendance may record all or any part of an open meeting of a governmental body by means of a tape recorder, video camera or other means of aural or visual reproduction.”

It defines a “governmental body” as “a board, commission, department, committee or agency within the executive or legislative branch of state

government that is directed by one or more elected or appointed members.” Other governmental bodies include school boards, county commissioners courts, municipal governing bodies and “a deliberative body that has rulemaking or quasi-judicial power and that is classified as a department, agency or political subdivision of a county or municipality.”

In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, Killeen spokeswoman Hilary Shine said the board overseeing the grievance hearing is not considered a “governmental body” under state law. “Our Civilian Personnel Hearing Board meets none of these definitions as it does not have final decision-making power.”

Killeen officials cited “City of Austin v. Evans,” which “analyzed the powers of a city grievance committee and determined it was not a governmental body within this provision. The court stated that the committee had no authority to make rules governing personnel disciplinary standards or actions or to change the rules.”

Killeen’s grievance board is designed to hear appeals from fired employees, but does not have the power to reinstate them. The board can only make recommendations to the city manager.

Catherine Rabb, an Austin-based attorney who works regularly on open government cases, said she had never heard of a governmental meeting that the public could attend, but not record with video equipment.

“If it’s open to the public, then the public is allowed to record it,” she said. “If it’s open, it’s open.”

On his Facebook page Wednesday night, Killeen Mayor Dan Corbin voiced his displeasure with the video ban.

“I was disappointed that the city did not allow the proceedings to be video recorded,” he wrote. “I missed the first part of Gonzales’ testimony but I saw the rest of the hearing until about 2:30 p.m. I thought both attorneys did a good job eliciting the facts from the witnesses. ... I wish you could have seen video!”

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5 comments:

  • Eliza posted at 11:26 am on Fri, Apr 26, 2013.

    Eliza Posts: 897

    @ Officials allowed photography and audio recordings, but said they could ban video because the hearing didn’t meet the requirements of the state’s open meetings law.


    The above is rather a stupid statement for the city to make -If photos or audio was allowed as far as recording, Why not a video camera?

    I think what has happened here, is the city has taken away the Freedom of the people to know what is going on inside a hearing room, when they are involved in a law suit which the people are, having been pulled into one when Ms. Gonzales' was fired by the city manager.
    The accused was more then willing to state her case in front of the public which could be considered by some, a sign of innocence in itself. But the accuser ,the city , was not in accord to have the public see the hearing on video.

    The city has taken it upon themselves to decide what the citizens will see or hear, even though they have involved the citizens in a law suit ,law suit means money, money means tax payers money.
    Tax payer money has been wasted before by having to pay out for mistakes city employees or council members have made. It seems as if its a continuing matter.
    It also seems as if bad advise is being given to those in charge of making decisions.

    The decision of, and who ever really made it, for the tax paying citizens to not video tape a public meeting, when the accused had ask for it to be fully open, and then to lie about why it couldn't be has been a bad one. It only adds fuel to the fire.

     
  • Viktor posted at 4:25 pm on Thu, Apr 25, 2013.

    Viktor Posts: 317

    Seriously eyesofkilleen thinks its city staff's job to push for transparency? Why? Was city staff voted into office on campaign promise of transparency? No. Be real with yourself & realize that when the Mayor wants to get his action across he has no problem doing it. Wasn't he the one that advocated for Glenn to get city manager position when money had been spent to bring in new candidates? City staff doesn't want to move into new century? Do the people that like to run things in this town because they benefit from city business allow staff to move into the new century? City staff are paid employees that want to keep their jobs so they can pay their bills.

     
  • concerncitizen posted at 11:51 am on Thu, Apr 25, 2013.

    concerncitizen Posts: 3

    Yes, cameras should have been allowed. it would have shown what the Mayor didnot want you to see. The mayor comments about the board are ot justified. The board members asked questions that the city couldn't answer. The board is a fact finding committee and the city wasn't providing any facts for the termination. i was at the hearing and I'm proud that the board members did not back down to the city managers. A bunch of corrupt individuals. I'm very disappointed in the Mayor assessment of the hearing. As a lawyer, he should know better. Or, i forgot he's a politician.

     
  • eyesofkilleen posted at 11:16 am on Thu, Apr 25, 2013.

    eyesofkilleen Posts: 3

    The mayor does not control the city staff. The city manager does. The mayor has continues to try push this city forward in the transparency of the city meetings. The influences on the city staff continue to want non-transparency and censuring, and the city staff does not want to move into the new century. Three reporters were forced to use their iPhone for photos, audio, recordings. The expensive high quality video cameras had to sit on the floor. The city staff does not understand how to get good PR. Perhaps that is why the news is filled with negative images of Killeen.

     
  • Viktor posted at 9:54 am on Thu, Apr 25, 2013.

    Viktor Posts: 317

    Mayor who happens to be an attorney by profession was disappointed? Interesting when one considers this is the same guy that ran a campaign on transparency saying meetings would be televised yadda, yadda. Austin attorney seems to disagree with City of Killeen but Killeen knows best!