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Monday, May 19, 2008

Ladenburg: Recording Executive Sessions Requires Too Much Technology

John Ladenburg is running for Attorney General against the incumbent, Rob McKenna. Running against a popular incumbent means coming up with some creative issues separating you from the incumbent.

McKenna supported the bill to require the recording of executive sessions. Ladenburg doesn't. Here's a portion of a story from The (Vancouver) Columbian:

"[Ladenburg] parts ways with McKenna on one issue the incumbent championed in the 2008 session — requiring local governments to tape their executive sessions to provide backup evidence if they are accused of violating the state’s open public meetings law. The bill, hotly opposed by many legislators from both parties, failed to pass, and Ladenburg said it 'would not be a priority for me.' For one thing, he said, it would be expensive to implement, because a simple tape recorder cannot distinguish among voices. 'The superior courts tried it, but it didn’t work,' he said. 'The technology required is akin to studio technology.' If an audio tape is going to be used as evidence, he said, 'You’d better know who said it and when.'"

The purpose of recording executive sessions is not to prove voice prints with 100% accuracy like on CSI. It's to allow a judge to see if the topics covered in executive session were legally allowed or not. Besides, if a recording showed seeming Open Public Meetings Act violations and the question of the identity of individual voices arose, there are simple ways to determine this. Like playing the recording in a deposition and asking the official, "Is that your voice?" Pretty simple. No "studio technology" required.

Ladenburg's strained excuse for not wanting to record executive sessions reminds us of another county official's: Taping (reel-to-reel, presumably) would take up too much storage space in county buildings.