Can citizens record public meetings?

Published 4:39 pm Tuesday, August 11, 2015

In the middle of a discussion on the success of the school’s Advanced Placement (AP) courses, Prince Edward County School Board member Beulah Womack put last week’s meeting on pause to ask a citizen if he was taping the meeting.

Richard Altice, a candidate for the Hampden District Board of Supervisors seat in November, confirmed that he was. Altice had a camera mounted on a tripod at the back of the meeting room.

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Womack took exception to Altice’s recording the meeting without the board’s knowledge and permission, asking that they get an attorney’s opinion on whether he could do so. Womack explained that “I don’t know how you’re gonna use it, and that’s my problem.”

Altice said he wasn’t hiding and that it was his right. It was a brief exchange, and Chairman Russell Dove did not prohibit Altice from recording, “as of right now.”

According to the Virginia Freedom of Information Act: “Any person may photograph, film, record or otherwise reproduce any portion of a meeting required to be open. The public body conducting the meeting may adopt rules governing the placement and use of equipment necessary for broadcasting, photographing, filming or recording a meeting to prevent interference with the proceedings, but shall not prohibit or otherwise prevent any person from photographing, filming, recording, or otherwise reproducing any portion of a meeting required to be open.  No public body shall conduct a meeting required to be open in any building or facility where such recording devices are prohibited.”

Altice later told The Herald he “just wanted to record it to … be able to view again.”