In his Sunday front page story, Northwest Herald reporter Kevin Craver ran an opinion from a public access lawyer with the Illinois Attorney General’s Office about the McHenry County Board’s proposed camera restrictions.
“…for the proposed McHenry County Board rule to be considered reasonable and therefore in compliance with the Open Meetings Act, the restriction prohibiting flash photography must have an obvious concomitant benefit to the public body, such as preventing interference with the overall decorum of the meeting. The restriction on the location of the photographers in the back corner of the meeting room, too, must have such an obvious concomitant benefit to the public body. Without knowing the benefit asserted by the McHenry County Board in proposing this rule, I am unable to determine whether it is reasonable.
“Factors that would likely be considered in determining the reasonableness of the flash restriction would be the size, power and frequency of the flash at issue; the physical layout of the meeting room; the nature of the interference caused by the flash; and the availability of sufficient light absent flash for citizens to record meetings by photography.
The opinion goes on to point out how undisruptive camera phones without flashes could be.”
Craver’s article starts,
“Inspired by the actions of one photographer at one meeting, the McHenry County Board is poised to pass rules banning flash photography during meetings and requiring photographers to shoot from the back of the room.”
That one photographer was I, of course.
I have no idea how long it took me to try to take a decent picture of each board member sitting in his or her seat, but Craver says,
“Skinner snapped about a minute’s worth of flash photographs at the Feb. 20 meeting in which members voted on cat registration fees, which Skinner vehemently oppose.”
Craver got my reaction,
“When one is elected as a public official, there are things that annoy you,” Skinner said. “That pretty much goes with the job.”
Craver found that McHenry County would be pioneering flash photography rules in the Chicago metropolitan area.
No other county has them.
Fox River Grove’s Dan Shea and McHenry’s Pete Merkel are quoting in the NW Herald story.
Management Services Committee Chairman Tina Hill told Craver that Chairman (Ken) Koehler would have the authority to suspend the flash prohibition,“ such as a picture taken during a recognition ceremony.”
That brought a pretty scathing criticism from Illinois Press Association First Amendment attorney Don Craven:
“ So if you agree with the government, we’ll allow you to come up and take a picture. That’s clearly a content-based decision, and it’s offensive to the First Amendment.”
This is sounding more and more like a soap opera.
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You can see the adequacy of the lighting in the picture of the county board the night it considered the McHenry County Republican Cat Tax. This was taken from the front spectator row.
Wanted poster by Allan Showalter of Crystal Lake-based blog Heck of a Guy. It was inspired by my almost being arrested for laughing too loud and taking pictures through a glass library window while the Prairie Grove School Board was holding a secret meeting discussing how to redeem itself from a previous alleged violation of the Open Meetings Act.