Danedri Thompson
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Debate on whether to video tape council meetings hit a boiling point on Monday night. Council member Dennis Pugh stood up, telling council member Larry Fotovich to shut up.
Fotovich said if meetings were videotaped, council meetings would end better, because the public was watching.
“I’d drag you into the back room and beat the shit out of you,” Pugh said before exiting council chambers. The remaining council members and handful of audience members could hear doors slamming as Pugh exited the building.
The theatrics effectively cut off debate, and council members moved to adjourn.
In the final minutes of the meeting, interim city administrator Melissa Mundt described what staff has learned about the possibility of videotaping future meetings.
In order to videotape meetings, the city would need camera and audio equipment, an encoder that prepares meeting video for broadcast, a place to publish the video file to the Internet, and some way to integrate the technology into the city’s website.
Smith-AudioVisual provided a cost estmate for a recorder/streamer and installation of $8,874. SKC provided an estimate for hosting a place to publish the video of $1,996 per month. The annual cost for the first year would be $34,821 – including a one-time set up fee of $1,995.
Council member Chris Morrow said he’d like to look at less expensive options.
“Maybe all we need is a camera that can make the digital recording placed in the back of the room capturing the whole dias,” Morrow said. “Turn it on when the meeting starts. Turn it off when it’s over. As long as we’ve got a good microphone and public address.”
Mayor Dave Drovetta said he’s hypothetical talk of a kid with an Iphone camera.
“But if we’re going to provide a product, then the product needs to be a quality product,” Drovetta said.
Council member Kristina Harrison said she has a dollar figure in mind of how much she’s willing to spend to broadcast or store and maintain videotaped meetings.
“I would like something less than $10,000 that allows people to access it. Storage is not a big deal to me and I would like it by Jan. 1,” Harrison told council meetings as they tried to reach a consensus on how to best offer access to taped meetings.
Pugh, however, expressed his opposition.
“I am not in favor of videotaping until we fill the chairs in this room,” Pugh said. “We’re spending money we don’t have for something we don’t need. I think we’ve spent the last 30 minutes talking about a want – not a need.”
A Kansas League of Municipalities advisor told city staff cautioned the city that, “having a video tape creates a dual, non-official record that can create legal uncertainty.”
Fotovich said the minutes aren’t always accurate. He noted that the minutes the council approved that night recorded that Pugh had voted to approve a set of minutes from a previous meeting.  In fact, Pugh voted against approving those minutes after a Fotovich request to amend them.
Fotovich said he trusted a video record of events more than the minutes.
“It’s just like any other surveillance,” he said. “When you need it, it’s there.”
Pugh’s departure ended debate, and council did not reach a consensus on the issue.
As the remaining council members filed out of the room, Drovetta told Fotovich he should help move the process forward.
I understand why you act the way you do, the Mayor told Fotovich.
“You were the kid who was picked on on the playground,” Drovetta said.