By Chris Lewis | Feb. 18, 2021
The Town of Harbour Grace is investigating ways to make its meetings more accessible.
Mayor Don Coombs told his colleagues last week the Town has received a request from a resident for recorded copies of the online Zoom meetings held by the Town in place of the in-person sessions that were cancelled by Covid-19 last year.
The public online meetings are open to anyone who wants to view them while they are in session. But Coombs was unsure whether recordings of those meetings are available. He said the minutes, however, are available.
Coombs allowed some of the residents who tune into the meetings probably record them themselves.
The mayor added he is not opposed to making the Town’s recordings available, as long as the requests are timely, explaining the audio files are very large and cannot be stored easily long term.
“We can’t have somebody calling in in a month’s time, asking for a Zoom meeting from two months ago,” he said.
Deputy Mayor Sonia Williams noted the minutes are not nearly as “graphic” as the raw meetings are. She argued the taping of meetings can be a slippery slope, and feared that words spoken on the fly at council meetings may be misconstrued in the future.
“Sometimes when you’re in discussion, you say stuff that could be wrong, or whatever,” she said. “If stuff like that is going to be used against somebody, then maybe we should get answers from Municipal Affairs on if somebody else is allowed to tape it, or if we’re allowed to give it out. I don’t think anybody’s allowed to tape it, personally.”
Councillor Kathy Tetford asked if other municipalities are providing recorded Zoom meetings to residents. She suggested the Town do a little more investigating into the legalities of providing the recordings.
“But, why would anybody want it?” Williams said. “The minutes are there. We’re not allowed to give out the minutes until they’re adopted. You discuss stuff in meetings that could be wrong or right. It’s only your own knowledge to a certain topic. You could be totally wrong, and so I wouldn’t want myself or anybody to be held liable for something they said that they might have been misinformed about … For our protection.”
Council ultimately agreed to ask Town Clerk Amy Parsons to reach out to other municipalities about the subject and their policies. From there, Harbour Grace council will adopt a policy of its own.