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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

REPOSITORY FAILS TO BRING SUNSHINE TO STARK BOARD OF ELECTIONS - STARK COUNTY POLITICAL REPORT GETS THE JOB DONE!

The SCPR could mimic the ownership of The Repository (GateHouse Media, Inc.) and give an award to itself (i.e. GateHouse awards The Rep for such an such), but The Report recognizes instead, the Stark County Board of Elections (BO#) for "letting the sunshine in."

About a month ago or so The SCPR showed up at a BOE in hand to videotape the regular monthly meeting of Board.  However, board president William Cline shut the SCPR camera down saying that the Stark Board had no guidance from the Ohio secretary of state office.

Another interesting side to the episode was that The Repository (which claims - once a year during "Sunshine Week" that it is at the vanguard of fighting for public access to government) reporter present at the meeting uttered not a word on behalf of "freedom of the press" and public to make a record of a public meeting.

The same reporter filed a report of the BOE's April 5th meeting describing the following, to wit:
"DISCUSSION  Introduced a draft version of guidelines and rules for public audio and video taping of meetings."
Notice not a word connecting the BOE's action to the SCPR's effort to record the meeting.  No question to the board members as to whether or not there was a connection.  Hmm?  Is The Rep really devoted to "journalistic/government sunshine?  Apparently, not.

Oh well, to carry on.

The SCPR did take up President Cline's challenge to check with the Ohio secretary of state office (SOS).  Answer:  It was not the role of the SOS to deal with such matters.

So at the next meeting, the SCPR showed up with camera in hand and videotaped the meeting. 

Now the guidelines. 


Recognition by the BOE of the public's right to access in terms of recording the event is a step in the right direction.

Rather than gloat, the SCPR chooses to thank the Stark BOE with an SCPR Sunhine Award.  It's up to the beholder to determine whether it is sincere or sarcastic.

Moreover,  there is additional work to be done by the BOE.  It needs to implement the SCPR request that it scan in candidate petitions an campaign finance documents as they are filed and make them immediately available to the general Stark County public in an electronic, over the Internet, format.

So far the BOE has been "in your face" with the SCPR on this issue.  If the board members think it is The Report that they are showing a thing or two to, they have it all wrong.  It is the Stark County public they are affecting.  Those many hard working Stark Countians who do not have the time to drive to Canton to get desired records as yours truly has the ability to do.

In the e-mail that yours truly sent to Director Jeanette Mullane for a copy of the "proposed" rules also asked about the status of the scanning request.  But no answer.  The last answer of any kind that The Report has gotten from the BOE, is something to the effect:  We will do with your request what we want to do and whenever we want to do it, if ever!"

Isn't that nice. 

As to the proposed rules themselves, they are highly insulting.  The emphasis seems to be on restrictive language highlighting that "no disruption" of board proceedings will be tolerated.  As if they anticipate that attendees would be predisposed to interrupt/disrupt.

The SCPR takes the language to be a signal from the leadership of the BOE that they view the mere presence of the public at BOE meetings to be intrusive, let alone the audacity of the public to think they can record the event. 

It is attutudes like the SCPR encounters from the BOE leadership that make The Report want to send the message to other Stark County departments of government that the SCPR will continue to oppose any sales/use tax reunewals/increases as long as your truly encounters perceived hostility to requests for making the public records of the BOE more accessible to all Stark Countians.

Rick Campbell (the recorder), Kim Perez (the auditor), the courts (through it CJIS operation) and other Stark County and political subdivision units of government have does a good job of increasing public access to their records.

The Report encourages these folks, the Stark County commissioners and all other Stark County officials to put pressure on the BOE to become more citizen-access-to-public-records friendly.

The issue of scanning is also one for the Citizen Review Committee (CRC)  to look into as a efficiency measure beneficial to the BOE and to everyday citizens.   The CRC needs use its influence to nudge the BOE into implementing the SCPR - on the behalf of the public - requested scanning project.

The SCPR doesn't like taking the position that there should be no tax renewal or increase (which affects all "general fund" county departments of government) when the main object of the SCPR's displeasure is pretty much focused on the BOE.  But such appears to The Report to be the only viable leverage left inasmuch s The Report cannot even get the matter on a BOE meeting agenda for discussion.

Unlike other departments of Stark County government, the board members of the BOE are unelected by the general public and therefore are not directly accountable to the public.  The members are "political appointees" and seem to the SCPR to have a "public be damned attitude" about them.

Such is not acceptable and it is in the interest of all of Stark County government to weigh-in on behalf of the public on this issue!

1 comment:

JL Watson said...

Great Job SCPR!!! I just got my copy of the Ohio Sunshine Laws On CD... They are a Great Resource...

But Like all Laws if you are unaware of them The " Big Bad Wolves " whether a employer or a politician will try to pull the wool over your eyes and shuffle you along... anything to protect their personal interests or agenda... Keep Up The Good Work