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Lindenhurst school board reconsidering videotaping public meetings

President Donna Hochman, right, with Superintendent Daniel Giordano,

President Donna Hochman, right, with Superintendent Daniel Giordano, second from right, listen to community concerns during a Lindenhurst school board meeting, Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

The Lindenhurst Board of Education is rethinking a decision to videotape its public meetings after residents voiced concerns about the videos being posted online.

Board president Donna Hochman said the issue of videotaping first came up for discussion at a public meeting more than a year ago. She said some had mentioned the recordings could benefit residents unable to attend meetings, prevent misinformation on social media, and help with the board’s goal of transparency.

The board approved recording public meetings in a close vote that was done in executive session, Hochman said.

“The board is not in total agreement on it,” she said.

The district contracted with its existing IT company, Long Island Computer Networks, at a cost of $150 per session. It was decided that the videos would be placed on the district website and YouTube, Hochman said.

Earlier this month, the board informed those in attendance at a meeting that it would be videotaped. During the public portion, several residents expressed concerns with having public comments recorded and shown online. Residents talked of potential employers being swayed and viewers getting a distorted perspective due to seeing only portions of the video.

“If you fast forward through a video, you probably won’t get the full context of what it is and you’ll misrepresent it,” said civic leader John Lisi.

Residents also were upset that the videotaping had been approved during executive session.

Civic leader Denis Garbo said it was “ironic” that the board made a decision “supposedly in the name of openness and transparency behind closed doors in a private discussion.”

Robert Freeman, executive director for the state’s Committee on Open Government, said the vote was a “failure to comply” with the state’s open meetings law and should have taken place in public.

Freeman said the board can edit and show only portions of the meetings online as long as it retains the full video for at least four months. But, he said, the policy is not “completely logical” because any person in attendance can record the entire meeting and upload whatever portions they choose.

“The school board has absolutely no control over what you do with it,” he said.

Hochman said that for now, only the business portions of the meetings will be recorded and posted. She said the issue will be on the agenda for the next community forum and there will be a board vote.

The forum is scheduled for Sept. 21 at 8 p.m. at William Rall Elementary School.


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