Cameras are not allowed at the Chattooga County Commissioner’s Office. That according to a policy that was posted at the commissioner’s office this week. However, the policy does not include cameras at a public meeting held at the commissioner’s office. WZQZ News in Chattooga County spoke with Commissioner Jason Winters on Tuesday afternoon. Commissioner Winters said that it has always been the policy of the commissioner’s office not to allow cameras in the office areas of the commissioner’s office where county employees working.
Winters said that in light of the meeting last Friday, the county fully expects there to be cameras at this week’s budget meeting on Friday. The commissioner said that the county attorney recommended that the policy be posted. According to the commissioner, at public meetings where there is security, cameras will be allowed as required by state law, but they will be “checked” at the door by security.
Commissioner Winters says that the policy has always been in place but has not been enforced.
Georgia’s Open Meetings Act, states “Visual and sound recording during open meetings shall be permitted.” (OCGA 50-14-1(c)). That applies to both the media and private citizens. Anyone can record public meetings or record in public areas. The law further says, “There is no provision in the law giving commissioners the ability to limit the number of recording devices allowed in an open meeting. Likewise, a county cannot allow some individuals or media to record a meeting, but exclude others.”
(WZQZ/Chattooga County Radio/WRGA/www.wrgarome.com)
STORY PREVIOUSLY PUBLISHED BY WZQZ
Commissioner’s Budget Meeting Making Headlines Worldwide
News outlets from New York City to London, England have spread the story about the Chattooga County Commissioner’s budget meeting last week.
The Chattooga County Commissioner’s budget meeting last Friday has made headlines all over the world. As news outlets picked up the story, local media outlets here in Chattooga County have been bombarded with calls from media as far away as New York and San Diego, all wanting to know facts about the incident that happened when Abbey Winters, wife of Chattooga County Commissioner Jason Winters, poured a fountain drink over the head of an online news blog reporter last week.
WZQZ News has received calls from television news channels in Chattanooga, Atlanta and San Diego, California. Also there have been requests for permission to use pictures and information from WZQZ’s news reports about the incident from multiple newspapers from Tennessee and Alabama to the New York Times.
Jason Espy with The Summerville News told WZQZ News that the local newspaper has received somewhere around 13-14 requests from media outlets outside the county for permission to use pictures and information from the newspaper’s reports on the incident.
Social media has largely driven the popularity of the story. Larger news outlets have staff that scour the web for “interesting” stories like the one from the commissioner’s meeting. A reporter from the New York Times told WZQZ News that her newspaper was interested in the story from a “first amendment” standpoint, regarding attacks on the press.
Commissioner Winters has maintained that the incident was an “accident” but at the same time told WZQZ News that the reporter “deserved” what happened to her. The commissioner also said after the meeting last Friday, that the reporter who was doused with soft drink should not be “allowed to represent the media” because of personal issues between the reporter, the commissioner and his wife.