Wyoming media decry recordings ban in public meetings

Monday, March 30, 1998

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — The Johnson County Board of Commissioners has voted to ban audio or video recordings of its public meetings as a way to prevent inaccurate reporting.

But an attorney for the Wyoming Press Association said the decision violates Wyoming’s open meetings law and the First Amendment.

Commissioner Tracy Rhodes said he proposed the ban during last week’s meeting because he was concerned comments were being taken out of context, and in at least one instance, played on a local radio station.

“If you just tape-record a meeting where people are having a discussion, if you don’t recognize the voice, you don’t know who’s talking,” he said. “Consequently, sometimes the information that is obtained from the recording is not an accurate reflection of what went on.”

But Wyoming Press Association attorney Bruce Moats of Cheyenne said previous court rulings indicate the state open meetings law prohibits a public body, including a board of county commissioners, from banning electronic recording of a public meeting.

Rhodes said the commissioners would consider allowing taping of a meeting under special circumstances or with permission from commissioners.