SAGUACHE — Saguache County commissioners approved a measure Thursday to purchase recording equipment and make audio recordings of their meetings, which then can be made available to those unable to attend during the week.
The need to record meetings has been discussed since the 2012 election cycle. Previous commissioners did not feel recording was a good idea.
County Clerk Carla Gomez campaigned for the recordings, but research into the matter took a backseat to election and financial problems in the county for a time and have only recently come once again to the forefront.
A system was priced with the county’s Internet service providers but was too costly ($9,000). Other systems have been discussed over the past few months but commissioners decided to consult with a recording professional before making a decision about any particular system.
At a previous meeting, Commissioner Jason Anderson offered to price systems and speak with those knowledgeable about recording equipment. He was directed to Pete Van Horn of Moffat.
Van Horn with Camino Del Rey Recording spoke to commissioners Thursday and offered information about an affordable audio recording system ($3,000, including installation). The equipment would come with six different speakers, is portable, “super hands off,” Van Horn said, and will meet all the commissioners’ needs.
The MICS won’t interfere with each other and are sensitive to different types of speakers, amplifying according to voice tone, Van Horn explained. Three different options are available for downloading the recordings including a thumb drive or MP3, an SD card (USBVSD backup) or ethernet.
“Citizens have been requesting this for a long time and it has been an issue for a long time,” County Co-Administrator Lyn Zimmer-Lambert said. When commissioners asked Lambert how to pay for the equipment she responded that it could be taken out of the county’s fund balance.
“It will help the press,” Commissioner Tim Lovato commented.
Lisa Cyriacks told commissioners that every board she works with has seen their meetings become more efficient once recording begins.
The equipment hopefully will be installed next month.
The push to record Saguache County Commissioner meetings first began as the result of a lawsuit brought by Valley Publishing and the Center Post-Dispatch against Saguache County in 2010 for failure to properly conduct executive sessions. Later Colorado Press Association attorney Steve Zansberg recommended recording the meetings when further incidents were reported.
Commissioner Jason Anderson and to a lesser degree, Ken Anderson, both made campaign promises to record meetings when running for office in 2012. Former commissioners had opposed recording the meetings following the 2010 election controversy and resulting need for greater transparency.
An impromptu survey done two years ago showed that most surrounding counties have recorded their meetings for years and make the recordings available to county residents. Some even post videos of their entire meetings to Youtube or their websites.
A 2014 letter written to commissioners by Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition President Steven Zansberg advised commissioners it was “uncontestable” they had been in violation of the open meetings law on numerous occasions, and suggested recording their meetings as a remedy for the situation.