Council rejects taping closed sessions

Council rejects taping closed sessions

City Council members shot down a proposal Monday to amend the
city’s Open Government Ordinance to allow videotaping of closed
sessions.
City Council members shot down a proposal Monday to amend the city’s Open Government Ordinance to allow videotaping of closed sessions. Most members said they felt such videos could be used against them in court and for political purposes.

“I think the best way I could put it is not only no, but hell no,” Councilman Bob Dillon said.

Such videos would likely be leaked onto YouTube within two weeks of their taping, he said.

The council voted on the proposal Monday after the City Council’s Open Government Commission voted 2-1 Dec. 14 in favor of having the council discuss the matter. Council members Perry Woodward and Perry Arellano, supported the measure during that meeting, while Mayor Al Pinheiro dissented. Woodward and Arellano were also the only two council members to support the measure on Monday.

“There could be standards that could mitigate all of these concerns and still be in furtherance of being as open as the city can be,” Woodward said.

“There’s nothing I can say in closed session that I can’t say out here in public,” Arellano said.

City Attorney Linda Callon said that cities in California only tape closed sessions when mandated by the courts because of an alleged violation of the state Brown Act, which governs public meeting laws in California. If closed sessions were taped, the city would need to have protocols in place about who could view the tapes and when they could be released. Otherwise, she feared that the city could give away its legal or negotiating strategies, saying that the labor unions or the Gilroy Dispatch could file a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain those videos right away.

Woodward said guidelines would need to be in place, but he did not see how videos of closed sessions could be damaging if they were released 10 years after they were initially taped.

Likewise, local Marc Perkel said there could be stipulations that only would allow the release of videos during a court order. He advocated for such meetings to be taped because of his belief that “it is the duty of the city to distrust government.”

Dillon, on the other hand, feared that such tapes would be leaked regardless of guidelines. Councilman Craig Gartman feared that such videos could be used as a “political football” to embarrass council members who took a certain position.

“I think it’s very dangerous to go down that road,” Gartman said.

Tucker did not understand why the City of Gilroy should set a precedent by taping closed sessions.

“It just isn’t common sense and not even good business sense, and I can’t even imagine why we as Gilroy would have to be the ones to push the envelope when no one else in the state is doing this,” she said. “It would make us look, to me, like we were the ones who didn’t know what we were doing.”

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