FLEMINGTON, NJ – It doesn’t look like the county Freeholders will be posting audio of their public meetings to the county website anytime soon.
Freeholder Rob Walton has long advocated for posting the audio along with the agenda and minutes of each meeting. But at the Dec. 20 Freeholder meeting, he couldn’t get his fellow freeholders to agree to vote on the measure.
Many municipalities post audio of their governing body’s public meetings. Flemington has long posted audio and video of its meetings online, something that only ended when large public turnouts forced Borough Council to move its meetings to the old Historic Courthouse. Borough officials have apologized for the change, but say they haven’t been able to get their video equipment to work in the courthouse.
That didn’t stop Jennifer Stevenson, who recorded the most recent Borough Council meeting, posted it to YouTube for all to see and shared the link on social media.
Walton’s fellow Freeholders say they don’t necessarily object to sharing the audio. But Freeholder Mat Holt has a special concern; he wants to be sure that the audio can’t be downloaded and manipulated by users. Holt said he seeks to protect the recordings from being used “in any way, shape or form” for any purpose other than providing public information.
Holt insists that documents the Freeholders currently make available, such as agendas, minutes and budgets, can’t be manipulated by users. He’s asked that Freeholders wait before acting on posting the audio until an upcoming 45-day technology security review is complete.
“Diving half-blind into something makes no sense,” Holt told the Freeholder board. Freeholder John King agreed and said, “We want to defer to the results of the IT security and infrastructure” review.
Freeholder John Lanza said that while sharing audio is “something we should be doing,” he, too, has security concerns.
Walton says that with today’s software, “There is no guarantee” that Internet content can’t be downloaded, altered and distributed by users. That applies to the PDF files the county now posts just as it does audio, Walton said.
The Freeholders record digital audio of all of their public meetings. Copies of the files are available under the state’s Open Public Records Act.