Attorney General Probing Grafton Township Trustees’ “Back of the Room” Instruction for Photographers and Anyone Videoing or Tape Recording Meetings

Grafton Township Trustees Barbara Murply, Betty Zirk and Gerry McHMahon, who voted to banish any reporter with a camera, video recorder or tape recorder to the back of the meeting room. In the foreground can been seen David Moore with his unobstrusive videoing machine sitting on a low tripod. To his left is the First Electric Newspaper's Pete Gonigam. Trustee Rob LaPorta left the meeting early.

After three Grafton Township Trustees passed a motion (Supervisor Linda Moore voting, “No”) to restrict me to the back of the room with my camera, not to mention Moore’s husband David, who unobtrusively videos the meeting from the front row, not to mention the First Electric Newspaper’s Pete Gonigam, who snaps a picture now and then, I filed a complaint with the Public Access section of the Illinois Attorney General’s Office.

If a reporter wanted to sit in the front row and just take notes, that would be OK.

But to the back of the room for anyone wanting to take a photo or use a tape recorder.

I smell a lack of equal protection under the law.

My complaint follows:

The Grafton Township (Board voted)  all “photography, recording media and video” to the “rear of the room.”

There are multiple recordings of the action taken at the meeting held in the Huntley Park District building.   The URL’s of my McHenry County Blog article and Pete Gonigam’s First Electric Newspaper article are below:

My article points out that camera flashes may not be the main objection.  For one trustee, Gerry McMahon, the objective is to prevent a good, close video being made by Township Supervisor Linda Moore’s husband.  Note the link in my article to where such videos have been posted.

My complaint is obviously being prevented from taking photographs from anywhere in the room except the back row or behind the back row.  I understand that flash photography may be prohibited, but I do not believe the Open Meetings Act allows a governmental body to mandate where those who record public meetings may sit based on the mode of recording.  The Grafton Township Board’s mandates allows those who just take notes to sit in the front row, but those who video, audio record or take pictures to the back of the bus, so to speak.  Such discrimination must be illegal.

Sounds like a pretty clear violation of the First Amendment right of Freedom of the Press to me.

May I have your advice in this matter?

Cal Skinner
McHenry County Blog

The Attorney General’s Office has sent the following message to Moore in her role as Grafton Township Supervisor:

Township Supervisor Linda Moore
Grafton Township

Dear Supervisor Moore,

This letter is to advise you that we have received and reviewed a written Request for Review from Mr. Cal Skinner regarding the decision by Grafton Township (Township) to restrict to a certain portion of the Township meeting room the recording of Township board meetings.  I have attached a copy of Mr. Skinner’s Request for Review.

We have determined that further inquiry is warranted with regard to this matter.  5 ILCS 120/3.5(b).

To begin, please forward me a copy of the meeting minutes reflecting the Township board’s April 8, 2010, vote involving the above-referenced matter.  The Township must provide this information to me within seven (7) working days after you receive this correspondence.  5 ILCS 120/3.5(b).

Additionally, please note that the Township may submit to us an answer to the allegations raised in Mr. Skinner’s Request for Review within seven (7) working days after you receive this correspondence.  This answer may take the form of a letter, brief or memorandum.  5 ILCS 120/3.5(c).  Please note that if the Township submits an answer, we may ask the Township to provide a redacted copy of this answer if necessary.  5 ILCS 120/3.5(d).

For your reference, there are three possible outcomes for a Request for Review.

  • First, the Public Access Counselor (PAC) may decide that no violations have occurred and will so inform the public body and requester.
  • Second, the matter may be resolve through informal mediation by staff from the PAC’s office.
  • Third, the PAC may decide to issue a binding opinion.

Should you have questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me.

Very truly yours,

Sara Gadola Gallagher
Deputy Public Access Counselor
Office of the Attorney General

= = = = =
Since no minutes have been approved since sometime last fall, it will be a neat trick for the township board to comply with the request of the April 8th minutes. I would imagine the Trustees will opt to be paid another $100 each by holding another special township meeting.


Comments

Attorney General Probing Grafton Township Trustees’ “Back of the Room” Instruction for Photographers and Anyone Videoing or Tape Recording Meetings — 11 Comments

  1. Calvin Jr, Your photo taking is more than obnoxous it’s asinine!! You do it just to agitate and be disruptive. I know a rat snake when I see one I can even hear the hissing. For sure your stupid complaint to D.A will not hold water. The board is well within there rights to set guidlines.
    Why don’t you stop causing trouble in township you don’t even live in.
    You can’t because you get your jollys from stiring the pot.

  2. To me, not that it matters as I’m sure cadman will point out, it is merely respectful to have reporters and photographers stay to the back of the room and not disrupt the proceedings. With all of the technology in our time, you can be very far away and still get the picture or recording you want. It can be a distraction for those who are there to witness the proceedings to have cameras, photographers and reporters at the in front of their view.

    Just my opinion, I don’t think it’s that much to ask, let alone to bring in MOORE lawyers/attorneys over.

  3. Thank God someone is checking things out. This county is buried in secrets.

  4. He knows the open meeting act forward and back and he know the board has the right by rule to set reasonably guide lines. Don’t think this is about pictures? The open meeting act also states you can’t broadcast the video taken at the meeting which has been violated. Wonder why he didn’t put that in his letter?

    Hey earth mother I’m gonna throw out some plastic bottles and cans just for you recycling is a waste of time :)

  5. Imaginary note to the Grafton Trustees…

    Grafton Trustees,

    Welcome to the 21st Century, the Scrutiny of the Public Eye, and the Wonderful World of the Open Meetings Act, the Freedom of Information Act, and the Attorney General’s Public Access people!

    Those meetings you used to have that were mostly just you, a Supervisor, a Clerk, an Assessor, a Road Commissioner, and Dust Bunnies? They have, at least for now, faded into History.

    Harkening to days of old, I would have to say – You asked for it!

    Horseless carriages fill our roads, computers are now in homes, and recording devices are common in cell phones.

    I don’t know what the Public Access folks will say. I’m hoping that they will say you are being unreasonable as opposed to being reasonable.

    “(5 ILCS 120/2.05) (from Ch. 102, par. 42.05)
    Sec. 2.05. Recording meetings. Subject to the provisions of Section 8‑701 of the Code of Civil Procedure, any person may record the proceedings at meetings required to be open by this Act by tape, film or other means. The authority holding the meeting shall prescribe reasonable rules to govern the right to make such recordings. ”

    ALSO

    As I recall, the original intent was to only allow Grafton voters into the Annual Meeting and then “someone” at your end found out that was a giant NO NO! What is it again that you pay (using Taxpayers’ bucks) for the lawyer(s) you use? $185 an hour perhaps? One sits with you at every meeting – hour after hour after hour. As I recall, Two sat with you at the Annual Meeting.

    Then there’s that deal with the Judge and the Appeal – where you lost.

    Maybe it’s not the laws that are wrong, maybe it’s you.

    Maybe it’s not people who disagree with you who are wrong, maybe it’s you.

  6. Tweedledee, You do so love to ramble. YAWN ZZZZZZZZZZZZs

    You are stuck in the past. Lawyers bill $300 an hour these days.

    “What about the horses”

    “Big lense, little schmekel”

  7. Some of us know a bit of Yiddish, WakaWaka.

    If you want to be able to continue offering your comments, refrain from usage of such words in the future.

    As to my complaint, we’ll see if equal protection under the law means what I think it means or what you think it means.

  8. As to the $185.00 per hour, check the videos or other sources. I didn’t just pick the number out of the air. There may be different rates depending on what’s involved.

  9. Blah, Blah,Blah, ramble, ramble, ramble A real broken record. Yawn zzzzzs

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