Article in New Paltz Times

January 14, 2010
article by Mike Townshend

And We’re Live – Marlboro citizens push to get school board on TV.

Members of the Marlboro Taxpayers Association want the public to see what
goes on at school board meetings. They would like to film the board
meetings for the public to watch. “If there’s nothing to hide, why do we
have to ask permission?” asked Maureen Carpenick of the taxpayer group.
“If you’re proud of what you’re doing, put is on TV.”

Marlboro Taxpayers was originally a consequence of the unusually high jump
in school taxes in the school district following the 2008 tax certiorari
lawsuit between Houston-based energy firm Dynegy and the Town of Newburgh.
Dynegy successfully sued to have its power plans reassessed to $895
million from $1.46 billion. Because the power company was paying such a
large share of district school taxes, the redistribution of the tax burden
was a severe burden on residential taxpayers.

The group has already filmed some meetings as a test, and it’s hoping to
try to find a way to put them online or onto public access television.

Right now, Marlboro Taxpayers members, a handful of concerned parents and
some teachers routinely attend school board meetings, an audience
of about ten to 20 people.

School officials initially were resistant to the idea of filming –
according to members of the group – when cameras first came in. By their
story, school board president Stephen Adamshick told the Marlboro Taxpayers that
they needed permission to film, but ultimately let them proceed.

According to superintendent Ray Castellani, that story is only partially
true. “They had asked to tape once before,” he said. “The board policy
is that people have to ask permission to film the meetings. And I reminded
them that it is board policy to get permission.”

Castellani and Adamshick had approved filming. “Stephen was okay with it,”
he said. “We have no problem with them filming the meetings.
They’ve taped since that conversation.”

The superintendent added that the district had nothing to hide.

But does Marlboro’s permission-first policy for filming run afoul of the
state’s open government laws or the Freedom of Information Law?
Not necessarily. There’s nothing in state law specifically approving or
disapproving of a group’s needing permission to film a board meeting.
However, case law built up by the New York’s courts does give some
guidance, according to Robert Freeman, the executive director of the
state’s Committee on Open Government.

“In general, I don’t believe that permission is required,” Freeman said.
New York’s leading expert on FOIL went on to say that case law did place
restrictions on people who were obtrusive to meetings or who caused
disruptions by filming.

The Marlboro Taxpayers currently disseminate their message through a blog
(marlborocitizens.wordpress.com). Technically, that website
does have the capacity to post video of meetings, according to Larry
Porres, a member of the group and the person maintaining the blog.

The “how” of broadcasting those meetings – and whether that comes through
public access TV or even as YouTube videos – is still up in the air.
But getting it done in general is still an important goal, according to
Carpenick. “That’s going to be a major issue for us this year. We’re
going to push for that to happen,” she said.

Source: New Paltz Times

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