Before John Harpootlian became a member of the Los Altos Hills City Council, he videotaped many council and committee meetings to share with the public. His efforts eventually led the town to initiate recording council meetings on video as a public service.
“Sometimes it’s just easier to be on the tower looking for icebergs than rearranging deck chairs,” said Harpootlian, explaining how recording meetings supplements the traditional publication of minutes on the town’s website.
At their Thursday meeting, Harpootlian’s council colleagues suggested that he might be going too far in requesting that the Finance and Investment Committee also record its meetings.
“These meetings are properly noticed, and all members of the public are invited to attend,” said Councilwoman Courtenay C. Corrigan.
Other councilmembers pointed out that Harpootlian and any other interested parties have access to minutes that are posted online and that two council liaisons sit on the committee. Although minutes are available, Harpootlian said he is interested in the specific questions asked and the responses from committee members.
The town’s legal staff confirmed that any public meeting is subject to audio or videotaping, but Mayor John Radford contended that pointing a camera at volunteer committee members doesn’t seem appropriate. Members of the Finance and Investment Committee agreed.
In a letter to the council, Finance and Investment Committee Chairman Allan Epstein encouraged Harpootlian to attend the meetings in person.
“Recording has a cost, an inconvenience and can adversely impact free discussion and volunteer participation,” said Epstein, questioning why the Finance and Investment Committee was singled out. “Like other committees, the Finance and Investment Committee is an advisory committee and has no authority to bind the town.”
After the feedback, Harpootlian did not introduce a motion to record the meetings.
The next Los Altos Hills City Council meeting is scheduled 6 p.m. May 15 at town hall, 26379 W. Fremont Road.