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 say 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 told Xpress. “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.
The video is below. The exchange in question lasts from approximately 11:30 to 14:30.
— David Forbes, staff writer