In Berkeley Springs, West Virginia this morning, the Morgan County Commission voted down a proposal to video stream the Commission’s meetings live on the internet.
Commissioner Stacy Dugan proposed spending $1350 on an camera and other equipment to stream the Commission meetings live so that citizens could watch the proceedings “in the convenience of their own homes on the computer.
But Commissioner Bob Ford, who seconded Dugan’s motion to vote on the proposal, surprised Dugan and voted against the measure.
Commission chairman Brad Close voted against the proposal because, he said “I don’t believe that we have the capacity from an IT perspective – we are already having plenty of trouble with the minimal IT that we have now.”
That seemed like a stretch since citizens around the world are living streaming for free or for a few dollars a month off their cell phones.
Dugan said that the proposal from Kevin Boles would allow for the purchase of a camera to video the proceedings and live stream them.
After Dugan made the motion to vote on the proposal, Ford seconded it.
Then when it came time to vote, Ford sided with Close and voted against it.
“Did you change your – you changed it?” Dugan said to Ford.
“Yes,” Ford said.
“He changed his vote,” Dugan said.
“I just want to clarify this,” Dugan said to Ford and Close. “You all do not want to give the public for $1350 the opportunity to see their Commission at work from their house?”
“That’s not what I’m saying” Close said.
“That not what we are suggesting,” Ford said. “They got their own video cameras here if they want to videotape.”
“I’m not talking about them,” Dugan said. “I’m talking about the opportunity for the public to see this.”
“If the public wants to see it, we have pews here and they are more than welcome to come,” Ford said.
“I’m just really shocked at both of you all,” Dugan said.
After the vote, Dugan, apparently still surprised, said to Close about Ford – “he seconded my motion. . .I know what he did.”
“You don’t think because I seconded your motion I was an affirmative?” Ford asked Dugan.
Dugan then stood up to leave and said – “You know what?” and waved her finger at Ford and Close.
Then, walking out the door she said – “Okay guys, keep the public out of the meetings.”
Ford then addressed the public and said – “You are welcome to have your cameras – that’s why I put on a nice tie to make sure you got my picture on YouTube.”
The Commission has come under public criticism recently for tightening control of citizen input at the Commission meetings.
Close told citizens recently – “let me explain something to you – this is our meeting” and “I can have you removed from this meeting.”
Commissioner Ford told citizens “the county commission meeting is not your meeting – this is our meeting.”
The local newspaper, the Morgan Messenger, in a lead editorial last week, reminded the Commissioners that “our elected officials need to temper their desire for efficient and business-like meetings with a big dose of civic responsibility.”