Controversies continue over URTV transparency

While a recent release asserted that URTV follows open-meetings law, a video has surfaced with statements made by Executive Director Pat Garlinghouse at the public-access channel’s last board meeting that misrepresent that law, according a North Carolina Press Association attorney—and some board members claim they were not consulted in a press release that claimed to speak on their behalf.

In a video of the board’s Jan. 15 meeting, in response to John Blackwell filming the meeting, Garlinghouse can be seen asserting that “you can the meeting, but you cannot reproduce it. The video is only a documented version that you can share with someone who needs to know the information. You have no right to put it on TV or the Internet.”

What the state’s open-meetings law says is this: “any radio or television station is entitled to broadcast all or any part of a meeting required to be open. Any person may photograph, film, tape-record or otherwise reproduce any part of a meeting required to be open.”

Asked by Xpress to review Garlinghouse’s statements, North Carolina Press Association attorney Mike Tadych cited that part of law in saying that Garlinghouse was incorrect.

Garlinghouse also states on the video that “people have a right to say they don’t want to be on TV.”

“That’s absolutely wrong,” Tadych told Xpress. Anyone at an open public meeting can be filmed, he emphasized.

Garlinghouse also says that the chair of the board can determine where someone can set their camera to film the meeting, which, according to Tadych, is correct. The law clarifies that the spot chosen “must allow such equipment to be placed within the meeting room in such a way as to permit its intended use.”

On the video, board member Richard Bernier objects to Garlinghouse’s interpretation, saying that “URTV should be more than willing to have this open up to the public. I see no reason why this couldn’t be filmed or shouldn’t be filmed.”

The discussion continues briefly before URTV Operations Manager Jonathan Czarny breaks in, saying, “Mr. Chairman, none of this is on the agenda, and with all due respect to the board members, can we stick to the agenda please?”

URTV receives public money known as PEG funds, a fee charged to cable subscribers. Those funds are allocated by the city of Asheville and Buncombe County, who each have separate management agreements with URTV. An amendment to the city’s agreement in 2007 specifies that the URTV board is required to follow open-meetings law.

Also at issue is whether board members were consulted before URTV put out a press release earlier this week announcing that they would revise a controversial confidentiality oath. The release makes several statements on behalf of the board, including “The Board of Directors wishes to thank the public for their interest and recent comments about URTV” and “The Board has full confidence in its management.” It also asserts that “URTV has always been subject to the Open Meetings Act and will continue to comply. The Board will review the Oath of Office to draft language that does not imply otherwise.”

But board member Davyne Dial told Xpress that she heard nothing about the release or the changing of the oath until the release went out.

“I’m perplexed,” she said. “I was not notified. There was no meeting of or consultation with the board that I know of before this release came out.”

She later added, “The more I think about the release, I’m not perplexed … I am outraged.”

Bernier also said he was not consulted and added that he disagreed with some of the statements made on the board’s behalf.

“It was news to me,” he told Xpress. “It’s just amazing, to say we’ve been following open-meetings law. If we’d been doing that, we wouldn’t have these problems right now.”

Board members Sandra Bradbury and Ralph Roberts refused to comment about the release.

Garlinghouse has not returned repeated calls for comment on these questions.

To see video of the Jan. 15 URTV meeting, go to mountainx.com.

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2 thoughts on “Controversies continue over URTV transparency

  1. The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners amended their agreement with URTV for a second time, and for the same reason: To explicitly stipulate that URTV is expected to hold open meetings.

    http://snipr.com/bahit

    How many times must this occur before the board of directors and the executive director begin following the law?

    In August of 2006, the URTV board of directors held a meeting where board members disputed the notion that they were subject to NC Open Meetings laws. At that time, Asheville city council member Robin Cape promised to seek clarification on this question from the city attorney and provide the board with an answer.

    Several months later, in January 2007, the City of Asheville amended their agreement with URTV to explicitly clarify that their board of directors functions as a public body and must comply with open meetings laws.

    As recently a last month, at a URTV board meeting — that for some reason included the Executive Director and staff — this mandate to comply with the law was reinterpreted to mean that a public photographic record of the proceedings was contingent upon permission of the attendees. And the public is still unable to readily access a thorough and complete record of minutes from 42 months of meetings.

    Now we have the Executive Director attempting to submit members to an ambiguous and broadly worded oath of secrecy that now has to be re-worded due to unexpected publicity.

    This would appear to me to be a long pattern of disdain for transparency in the service of public ends. All the more reason that URTV is deserving of the closest scrutiny.

    I object to the continuing abuse of the public trust in this manner. And it is for this reason that I support the renewed amendment to the county’s agreement.

  2. thank you tim.it’s time that people knew the truth..

    “This would appear to me to be a long pattern of disdain for transparency in the service of public ends. All the more reason that URTV is deserving of the closest scrutiny. “

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