October 31, 2014

Arenac Commissioners organize for 2012

Discuss transparency issues

By Kevin Bunch
Staff Writer | news@arenacindependent.com
Posted

ARENAC COUNTY — The Arenac County Board of Commissioners reelected Commissioners Mike Snyder and Joseph Sancimino chairman and vice-chairman, respectively, and approved changes to their video recording policy at an organizational meeting Thursday, Jan. 5.

Snyder was unanimously re-elected as the chairperson, while Sancimino was re-elected as vice-chair by a 3-2 vote with Commissioners Joseph Trombley and Virginia Zygiel supporting Zygiel’s nomination for the position, while Snyder, Sancimino, and Commissioner Robert Luce supported Sancimino.

The board also passed a rule change, proposed by Trombley, dictating that official video recordings of board meetings would be made only at the chairperson’s discretion. Previously every board meeting was recorded so interested citizens could request copies.

The recording rule change passed by a narrow 3-2 margin, with Snyder and Sancimino opposing the change.

Trombley stated he considers the taping of every meeting a distraction. He explained it can take up to 30 minutes before a meeting to get the camera set up, and since audio recordings would still be mandatory the board could reserve camera usage for hot topics and meetings.

“If the chair needs it at a meeting, they can use it,” he said.

Snyder sympathized with Trombley’s issues with the camera, calling it “frustrating.” He said he wondered if another camera or someone trained to operate the existing one more effectively would help.

Nevertheless, as chairman, Snyder said he had no intentions of removing the camera from board meetings even with the option to do so.

This rule change also does not affect recordings made by residents. Legally the board cannot make a policy preventing the public from recording meetings themselves.

Sancimino argued for the camera, stating it was brought in to head off controversy in the past about meeting events. He said the recordings are helpful to people interested in seeing the meetings but are unable to attend.

“The trend in government today is to be transparent,” Sancimino said. “I can take you to any number of township (web)sites today, right now, that have their meetings broadcast on their website.

“It’s just another example of the Open Meetings Act working for people who can’t show up,” he added. “We’re retreating from the total transparency.”

Sancimino said the eventual goal of the board was to put the recordings on the county’s website as well.

He also dismissed concerns over the time used to set up the camera. Sancimino pointed out that the camera is set up before the meeting, not after it starts.

Luce said the meetings were still open to the public, noting the cassette recordings are still going to be made regardless of the chairperson’s discretion.

Zygiel agreed, saying she saw no reason to keep the camera mandatory to each meeting. She said it was hardly needed in the past year.

Sancimino reiterated his view in response. He said the problems that plagued the board in the past over what happened at their meetings only went away after the camera was set up.

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