The walls have ears

Some councillors first learned of the practice at last Tuesday�s elected members briefing session (EMBS), which is open to the public, when the issue of recording meetings was raised by councillor Vince Maxwell.

He has given notice of an item that will come before tonight�s ordinary council meeting (OCM), proposing the Town adopt a policy that all public council meetings be audio recorded and digital copies be made publicly available for a fee upon written request.

At last week�s meeting, acting chief executive Anthony Vuleta said �We are recording at the moment and have been for a while� and Cr Maxwell�s recommendation would formalise the practice.

Crs Brian Oliver and John Bissett said they were unaware of the recordings until last week. Cr Vin Nairn said he knew, while remaining councillors declined to comment.

Mr Vuleta said the administration had used a small hand- held recorder for many years to audio record public question and statement times at EMBS and OCMs.

�(It) is to ensure public question and public statement times are recorded so the intent of the statements made are correctly reflected in the minutes and to fully capture questions taken �on notice� to provide a comprehensive written answer,� Mr Vuleta said.

�It is not a requirement under the Local Government Act 1995 to let the public know (they)… are being recorded. The Local Government Act 1995 and State Records Act 2000 is silent on whether the public or councillors should be notified if Council were to record entire meetings.

�If the Town introduces audio recordings of meetings, it is intended an announcement will be made by the presiding member similar to the practice followed by the City of South Perth.

�If council was to go down the track of recording meetings in their entirety, good-quality recording equipment would be considered in order to provide the best sound quality and are estimated to cost $5000 to $10,000.�

Cr Maxwell said while he knew some recording had taken place, he was not happy that it was being done informally.

�Councillors may feel that the recordings may cramp our style but we are not there to entertain ourselves and so I am sure we will get over it,� he said.

Cr Oliver said the council should explore delivering a live video stream of meetings to engage people outside the constraints of a council chamber �to foster greater interest and understanding of the operations of council and the process behind council decisions which impact their lives and their community�.

ON THE RECORD

These nearby councils DO record meetings:

* City of South Perth

* City of Melville

* City of Fremantle

* City of Cockburn, but for accurate minute recording – audio tapes are not made available unless sought through an FOI request.

These nearby councils DON�T record meetings:

* City of Belmont

* Town of East Fremantle