Letter from Sheriff-Coroner Sandra Hutchens to BOS Chair Pat Bates on the security camera

For those not following the explosive County Board of Supervisors privacy issue let me provide some background. As reported by the press, a security camera was seen monitoring Supervisor Chris Norby’s notes for about a minute and 30 seconds of Supervisor Janet Nguyen’s Blackberry text at the Jan 13th meeting. This has resulted in a debate between county offices on the inappropriateness of this abuse as well as which agency has access to the security footage. There was extensive discussion of this issue during today’s BOS meeting relating to CCW’s.

Following is the latest on this tug of war. “Regarding the January 13, 2009 security video recording on the Board hearing room” Orange County Sheriff-Coroner Sandra Hutchens just issued the following letter to Patricia C. Bates, Chair, Board of Supervisors of the County of Orange.

“Thank you for your correspondence of February 5, 2009 regarding the January 13, 2009 security video recordings of the Board hearing room. I very much appreciate the resolution you offer on page two or your letter wherein you suggest that the security recordings can be provided to the individual Board members after the audience is obscured. This resolution addresses my previously stated security concerns about releasing the video and, I believe, also gives the Board members the access to the video that they desire. I am grateful that you were able to suggest such a practical and pragmatic resolution of this matter.

I have directed my staff to examine, from a technical perspective, how the audience may be obscured from the video. Presuming this can be achieved, a copy of the January 13, 2009 video will be provided to each Board member once the audience has been obscured.

Regarding the policy that will relate to security recordings of future Board meetings, I am comfortable with and agree to County Council being the custodian of security recordings of the Board hearing room. I appreciate and concur with your position that the Board hearing room security recordings are not “public records” subject to disclosure under the Public Records Act. I also appreciate that the new policy you propose for future Board hearing room security recordings includes a provision that such recordings will not be subject to public release or available to other County employees. While I have no objection to this policy, I believe the procedure and timing of producing the copy of the security recordings from each Board meeting will require further discussion. I am advised that to make a copy, the original video footage must be played in real time and downloaded to disk in real time. This means if the meeting is 4 hours long, it will take 4 hours to create a copy of the recording. Thus, that part of the policy that would require a copy of the video to be provided to County Council by the “close of business each meeting date” appears to be unworkable. Nonetheless, I find your proposal on this issue to be highly feasible and I look forward to working with you and your staff, at your direction, the County Executive Office and Information Technology staff, to establish the procedural details of this new policy.
Sandra Hutchens

One problem. What is on the tape that the public cannot see?

In a future post I will quote directly from the Public Records Act Section 54953.5 that covers the rules governing recording meetings.

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