Some against recording meetings

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By David Giuliani

The West Las Vegas school board doesn’t record its meetings, unlike most governing bodies.

Some members like that policy; others question it.

“I have visited other institutions where they record their public meetings, I was wondering why we don’t. We have to be accountable for everything we say at these board meetings,” said member David Romero, who asked that the school board consider the issue.

Member Kenny Lujan said all meetings in the past used to be recorded, but he said nobody knows why the practice stopped.

“Let’s record the meetings,” Lujan said.

Board member Caroline Lopez agreed, “I have no problem with it. I think it is a very good idea.”

Board Vice President Gary Gold said to laughter, “I don’t want to seem like I’m on the opposite side every single time, but I guess I am. Sometimes you have new board members who don’t really understand something, and they will say things regarding personnel they shouldn’t be saying. They might misspeak, and if it’s recorded, it could put the school district in liability.”

Gold said minutes should reflect board action on items on the agenda.

“I want open government, but when you’re dealing with highly technical issues, sometimes we have a tendency to put our foot in our mouth. That recording and statements by an inexperienced school board member could jeopardize the district in the way of lawsuits,” Gold said. “I’m still learning, and I don’t want to do something stupid that would take money away from education.”

Gold said if the public has access to recordings through the Open Meetings Act, things could be taken out of context, and the district could then face litigation.

“For that reason I’m opposed to recording meetings. Meetings are open, the Optic has a tape recorder, but we don’t have to record the meetings ourselves. Besides, after they are transcribed, we can legally throw them away,” Gold said.

Board President Christine Ludi agreed.

“I don’t want something I say to be misconstrued and taken out of context; I think it is good the way it is. We have a very reliable person taking notes. The Optic has a recorder, and sometimes I don’t like what the reporter has to say,” Ludi said.

Romero shot back, “I may be the new one here, but I have no problem being accountable for what I say. What happens when I say one thing today and tomorrow I conveniently forget about it?”

Lopez said people misspeak all the time, but fear of saying the wrong thing should not guide public discourse.

“People can sue us for anything; that doesn’t mean that they’re going to win, and if we’re so afraid of being sued all the time for any little thing, then what’s the point?” Lopez said.

Superintendent Jim Abreu said the reason the board stopped recording the meetings was on the recommendation of its legal counsel at the time; he didn’t name the attorney. He said the audio tapes were being used  against the district in legal proceedings.

Abreu said the district’s current law firm had passed along a list of pros and cons that board members should consider before making a decision on resuming recording the meetings.