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Commissioners restrict recordings

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During the few minutes that the public recording was allowed at the June 5 meeting of the Potter County Commissioners, there were three executive sessions and a motion to limit public recorded access to the meeting.
Gettysburg resident Dale Nauman was first on the agenda. Nauman said his reason for being there was a personnel issue and suggesting that it be discussed in executive session, which was granted by the commissioners.
After adjourning from the executive session, Cindy Jager, who represented the 4H Leaders along with Tammy Simon, Julie Keller, and Penny Rogers, asked if the discussion in executive had anything to do with the fair board or 4H. Commissioner Bruce Williams told her they were not going to discuss what happened in executive session, so Jager asked that another be called.
No actions were taken after adjourning from executive session.
Potter County State’s Attorney Craig Smith talked about putting a policy in place for recording meetings. There were conflicting concerns. One was that whoever records the meeting must be in the room, but another suggestion was that a recording should be controlled by the county auditor.
Smith said the bigger issue is that recordings are public record and must be available to everyone. He was concerned about how long a recorded meeting needs to be kept. He also told the commissioners that  he believed the county auditor could keep a recording for her own purposes, which would help if a question arises regarding what has been said in a meeting.
He is going to further research the public meeting rules and how the recordings should be archived. Smith believed that anyone attending the meeting had the right to record it, but said it is better for the recording to be under the county’s control.
Chairman Randy Simon said that the auditor could record the meeting and if someone wants to listen, they can come and listen. Smith said it is easy to download the recording and if people want a copy, they should be able to copy it, but that is part of the public policy he wants to clarify.
All agreed that it is a public meeting. The concern appeared to be just how public it should be to those who can’t attend.
Commissioner Bill Arbach said that everybody has the right to know they’re being recorded.
Simon added that anything on a recording can be taken out of context, which drew an “absolutely” from Arbach. Commissioner Delvin Worth added that a sign needed to be posted on the door to let people know they are being recorded.
Another commissioner concern  was that some people who come to the meetings are not going to open up like they want to if they know they’re being recorded, saying “it holds you back.”
Smith didn’t seem to think that was a bad thing, saying often meetings are recorded so they will be toned down.
He also said that state meetings, legislative sessions, or boards meetings are all recorded and archived, and most are available online.
Smith offered to review the requirements and legal aspects of the Director of Equalization position that is being vacated by the retirement of current director Cindi Forgey. The board again moved into executive session to discuss how to proceed.
Coming out of the executive session, Worth made a motion regarding policy.
He moved that the recorder, which was being monitored by the auditor and auditor-elect, be shut off because it was considered “unattended.”
Although it was indicated by Shawna Shaw, who is the auditor-elect, that she was attending the recorder, Simon argued that it belonged to the paper and said, “Well, we’re shutting it off.”
Both Worth and Simon said that the recording will not be allowed until a policy is set by the state’s attorney.
At that point, public recorded access to the meeting was stopped.
In the legal minutes, it reported that the driveway to the new housing development on the south side of Gettysburg is petitioned to be added to the county road system, and independent contractors will be hired to provide gravel to roads that are located across the county from the gravel pits.  The county road that runs north of the medical center, which is Garfield Avenue, will be offered to the city for future repair work.
In other action, the primary election votes were canvassed, the county employees will continue to have the same, unchanged, health insurance benefits as part of the renewal, and Barb VanderVorst was hired as the 4H secretary.
The minutes are published on page 12 of the News. They are also available online at www.pottercountynews.com and www.sdpublicnotices.com
-Molly McRoberts

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