December 11, 2012
The staff of the Committee on Open Government is authorized to issue advisory opinions. The ensuing staff advisory opinion is based solely upon the facts presented in your correspondence.
In response to your request, this will confirm that in our opinion it is likely to be reasonable to designate one general location from which those who are recording public meetings may record.
It has long been our advice that recording meetings was permissible, so long as the recording was carried out unobtrusively and in a manner that did not detract from the deliberative process. See attached OML-AO-4767.
In 2011, §103(d) the Open Meetings Law was amended and now permits as follows:
“1. Any meeting of a public body that is open to the public shall be open to being photographed, broadcast, webcast, or otherwise recorded and/or transmitted by audio or video means. As used herein the term “broadcast” shall also include the transmission of signals by cable.
2. A public body may adopt rules, consistent with recommendations from the committee on open government, reasonably governing the location of equipment and personnel used to photograph, broadcast, webcast, or otherwise record a meeting so as to conduct its proceedings in an orderly manner. Such rules shall be conspicuously posted during meetings and written copies shall be provided upon request to those in attendance.”
Accordingly, it is our advice that a public body may adopt a rule that limits the location of equipment and personnel used to record public meetings so as to conduct its proceedings in an orderly manner. In order for a designated location to be reasonable, it would be important, as you point out, that it not impair the public’s ability to record the images or sounds of the proceedings. In the event that it is not possible or reasonable to record from the back of the room, in my opinion, the Town would be required to make reasonable accommodations.
The Town has designated one corner in the back of the meeting room as the location from which recordings may be made. While it could be argued that the amendment was intended to permit the recording of both the members of the public body and those in attendance, we believe that the primary intent of the amendment is to enable the public body to limit the disruptions associated with recording.
We hope that this is helpful.
Camille S. Jobin-Davis