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