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Board Clashes Over Filming Public Meetings

Would you watch meetings on Mahwah's public access channel?

Tempers erupted after the Mahwah Planning Board found unexpected technologies at during its meeting Monday night.  Two large flat screen televisions were flanking the board at the front of the room, and a videographer from the township’s cable access channel, Mahwah Community News, taping the meeting.

“What is all of this? These TVs are blocking exits and we were not asked about someone taping the meetings,” Board member Jeremiah Crean said during the work session. Others at the meeting explained the new technologies, which other board members agreed were not expected at the meeting.

New mayor Bill Laforet and the township’s zoning official Gary Montroy explained the televisions, which were on loan from the plant off of Route 17 in Mahwah.

“The Board of Adjustment requested a laptop and a projector to project maps and other images onto the screen built into the room,” Montroy explained. “We have gotten both of those,” but installing them is taking time due to a video conferencing camera that is blocking their implementation, he said.

Montroy said his office made a last-minute call to Sharp so that the maps presented during the scheduled Crossroads public hearing could be displayed in the future. The hearing was , but according to Montroy, “if you want to do it again, I think Sharp would loan us the TVs again, and we should have the time to set them up so they don’t block anything.”

Laforet said Montroy and his department arranged for the televisions in an effort to be “transparent,” and allow for members of the audience to see the maps and plans being presented to the board. He thanked Montroy and Sharp for coordinating the drop off and set up of the televisions.

The board agreed the increased visibility was a positive change.

However, there was a bit more disagreement over the MCN filming. “I was asked by one of your board members to come film,” videographer Peter Wendrychowicz said. Board member Ward Donigian later revealed he had made the request, and implied that board members who were upset by the filming were “trying to hide something” from the public.

“I think it would have been nice if this was discussed first,” Crean said.

“I don’t think anyone objects to having these filmed, but it would have been a courtesy to discuss it with us, or at least let the Chairman know,” Board member Ellen Stein added. "We are supposed to work together."

Board Chairman John Brotherton admitted he was “surprised but not offended” by the filming.

By the close of the meeting, the board unanimously voted to allow MCN filming at its meetings. The board also approved having the videos archived in the library, as public meeting minutes are. However, the question of whether or not the board should have been asked prior to being filmed remained debated.

MCN volunteers in the past have said putting entire meetings on the air would be too costly and time consuming to do. However, the possibility of MCN running Planning Board and other meetings recently during the recent mayoral and council elections.

David May November 29, 2011 at 03:18 PM
As an attendee of the meeting last night and as a member of the Mahwah Cable TV Committee, I just wonder why the TV's and the filming were not an issue until the Crossroads discussion began which ended up being the last item on the agenda? The TV's and video camera were setup prior to the meeting. It looked as if all Planning Board members were in attendance at least 15 minutes prior to the official start of the meeting. If a planning board member were to question the TV's and Video camera, I would think this would happen as soon as they entered the meeting room when the supposed initial "shock" would have happened especially if there were concern for the safety of the attendees of the meeting.
resident November 30, 2011 at 12:14 AM
Comments made by one member of the Planning Board were extremely degrading to women. I think the Board member who addressed the LADIES regarding being seen on a taped meeting of a town council meetings or planning board meeting might upset us if we see ourselves on the cable channel with a bad hair day! He should be removed from the board immediately. Anyone else who made statements like that would be terminated immedately. Unfortunately the video camera was not running when all the fighting broke out amoung the board members. The meeting was a real eye opener to the way this town is really run. No wonder Mahwah only ranked 92 in the best places to live article in New Jersey Magazine. Everyone thought the new Mayor would change all that but it doesn't look that way from the outragous fighting amoung the board members. None of it was caught on video. Everyone is terrified about the outcome of this mall. The whole thing stinks and they know it and they know it is their fault. They are just trying to protect themselves by not filming the meetings. All the other townships do it. Just check out Wednesday night on all the local cable channels. You will not have a problem finding some local township meeting going on. Of course why would women be intested in how other townships conduct their business, we only care about being seen and how we look. Maybe the board members should hire a stylist!
Hank November 30, 2011 at 01:21 AM
why did they go there if they did not film the meeting?
David May November 30, 2011 at 02:03 AM
Although there might not be video footage, I'm sure there is audio as th Stop the Mall Group records each meeting.
resident November 30, 2011 at 02:22 AM
They were filming up until the topic changed to the mall. That is when the big fight broke out. It was not the mall people fighting it was the board fighting each other. I guess at some point the person filming felt it best to stop or was told flat out to stop. Anyway all the good stuff is probably only taped. I do have to say the topic of the nail salon was very interesting and that is on film. The mall is not the only issue to be concerned with this town. Time to pull up the carpet and sweep..The Crossroads had a court reporter there, but the public could not film the meeting. All the mayor could say is that Sharp donated the TV for the big presentation (that never happened). I believe they came from the Sharp warehouse.That is all that is left of Sharp in Mahwah.
Hank November 30, 2011 at 02:52 AM
the board members start fighting...... and you shut off the camera? that's some news crew you got there
resident November 30, 2011 at 02:56 AM
I don't think they had a choice. It was pretty nasty! Better than Jerry Springer!
Ralph November 30, 2011 at 02:44 PM
The real truth was that they ran out of film before the argument started and that is why he wrapped up and left. If anyone wants to hear what happened listen to the stop the mall audio which they tape at every meeting.
resident November 30, 2011 at 02:52 PM
Thanks - good to know. Next time make sure there is enough film. We missed a good one.
Hank November 30, 2011 at 04:33 PM
I'm not so sure the videographer ran out of film. I heard he had to go home to watch the Giants game
resident November 30, 2011 at 05:08 PM
Hank - take a break.
resident November 30, 2011 at 05:45 PM
Hank if you know this why are you wasting people's time? Why didn't you mention it several comments ago?
Hank November 30, 2011 at 07:25 PM
hey take it easy resident just a joke i think its comical that a videographer '"runs out of film" right before the mall agenda and packs up gimmee a break
resident November 30, 2011 at 09:19 PM
Stop wasting people's time. This issue is not a joke.
Hank December 01, 2011 at 12:13 AM
yes it is a joke you of little humor mall one of the biggest issues in years after vote we know at least 5000 people are interested in mall issue monday planning board is going to discuss mall issues local cable sends camera crew citizens can't wait to see board meeting on TV crew does not record mall hearing why? a)ran out of film b)political pressure c)Giants home game

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