Thursday, May 23, 2024

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Graham, NC 27253
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Commissioners vote to record – with audio & video – all ‘official’ meetings

They may not exactly be “ready for prime time.” But Alamance County’s commissioners have resolved that, to the extent they are able, they will strive to video record all their “official” public meetings as a courtesy to residents who are unable to attend the proceedings in person.

The commissioners formally decreed this policy on Monday in apparent response to some rather pointed criticism their chairman recently received from this newspaper after he unilaterally chose not to record a so-called budgetary “work session” last month.

For well over a decade, the county has video recorded all of the regular, semimonthly meetings that the commissioners hold in their usual meeting chambers in Graham. In recent years, the county has also begun to live stream these gatherings on YouTube – along with the sporadic “work sessions” that the commissioners hold in these same chambers.

Last month, however John Paisley, Jr., the chairman of Alamance County’s commissioners, abruptly broke with this custom and instructed county staff members to neither record nor live stream a work session that the commissioners convened on April 21 in order to pore over the county’s capital expenditures.

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County commissioner chairman John Paisley, Jr.

Paisley later told The Alamance News that he had made this decision so as to not to encumber the county’s IT staff as it prepared for the debut of the local court system’s e-filing service. Paisley ultimately acknowledged that his choice was, in hindsight, a bad one. Yet, his frank admission of guilt didn’t spare him a drubbing from this newspaper, which described his decision as “monumentally flawed” and even “bone-headed” in a subsequent editorial. The chairman’s actions also irked fellow commissioner Pam Thompson, who took him to task in a social media post after the work session.

County commissioner Pam Thompson

See previous coverage from April 25, 2024 edition:

Why did commissioner chairman veto broadcasting meeting?:

And the newspaper’s editorial on the subject:

Although state law technically doesn’t require local governments to either record or broadcast official meetings, Paisley apparently felt chastened enough after his lapse that he had Alamance County’s clerk Tory Frink upload an audio recording she had made of the work session for her own use. Meanwhile, he had the county’s administrators draft a resolution that enunciated the board’s intentions to video and audio record all their forthcoming public proceedings.

According to this resolution, which Paisley read into the record on Monday, the commissioners have authorized county staff to use the “appropriate technology and personnel resources” needed “to facilitate the audio and video recording of all its official meetings.” This resolution went on to receive a unanimous nod from the commissioners – whose 4-0 vote excluded commissioner Bill Lashley, who was absent on Monday for health reasons. [See separate story this edition:]

In a subsequent interview, Paisley explained that by “official meetings,” he intended to signify both the board’s regular semimonthly meetings as well as any special-called meetings and “work sessions” that occur in their usual meeting chambers. He added that the recording policy wouldn’t apply to joint meetings that take place on another board’s turf or to closed sessions that the commissioners held under one of the sundry exemptions to North Carolina’s Open Meetings Law.


Closed session

The board of commissioners ultimately held just such a closed session at the end of their otherwise public proceedings on Monday.

This confidential confab, which lasted roughly 45 minutes, allowed the commissioners to consult with the county attorney about legal matters that included a lawsuit dubbed Allison et al. v. Allen et al.

This federal class action was originally filed in 2019 in opposition to the local court system’s erstwhile policy on cash bonds.

Earlier this month, a federal district court judge declared the case to be moot and ordered all of plaintiffs’ claims “dismissed without prejudice.” The commissioners also discussed a proposed employment contract for an unspecified member of Alamance County’s staff.

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