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Does Steelton's new public meeting policy go too far? - abc27 WHTM

Does Steelton's new public meeting policy go too far?

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STEELTON, Pa. (WHTM) -

A new resolution passed by Steelton Borough Council has some members of the public asking questions.

In late April, Steelton adopted a policy regarding public meeting decorum. Specifically, it placed several restrictions on recording devices.

"It just shows that the borough doesn't want us to attend the borough meetings," resident Markis Millberry said.

During May's borough meeting, Millberry said he was recording the swearing-in ceremony of a new police officer for his Facebook page, "Steelton on the Move," when he was told to stop.

"So I tried to record the oath of him getting sworn in and the council president, Jeff Wright, stopped me and said that I had to address the council before I could record anything," he said.

Part of the resolution requires anyone who wishes to record at a public meeting to give pre-notification, in writing, with their name and address, type of device and an acknowledgement of the new rules. Read it here: http://steeltonpa.com/resolution_meetings.pdf

Millberry said he believes this a violation of the Sunshine Act.

"It just shows more lack of communication with the residents and the borough," he said.

Eventually that evening, Millberry said the borough solicitor told him he could record. Millberry's friend, Jenna Mott, said the rules are not being enforced uniformly.

"It's kind of like on a one-on-one basis. Like, 'Do I want him to record this or do I not want him to record this?,' " Mott said. "If I'm able to record, I should be able to record anything in that meeting, not just when you say yes or no in that moment when you know what I'm recording."

Melissa Melewsky, attorney for the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association, said while governing bodies do have the right to lay out regulations regarding recording at public meetings, they must still give the public reasonable access. She said it does not appear the public is being given reasonable access in this case.

"Any policy that requires prenotification, permission from the board, we take the position that those kinds of requirements are not reasonable because there's no purpose to them," she said. "There's no expectation of privacy in what is said in a public meeting, and the General Assembly has made it abundantly clear that the general public and anyone attending a public meeting has the right to record the proceedings."

Millberry said he is in the process of filing a complaint with Borough Council regarding the resolution.


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