With the welcome news that Cobourg Council will begin ‘streaming’ its meetings comes the absolutely horrible news that they will only be available for three months. For those who have waited for the campaign promise and strategic plan entry the news that ‘streaming’ video will be coming at us over the interwebthingy is a big “What kept yah”. But the idea that only three months worth of history will available on “civicweb” is a big letdown and heresy to all of who value history as it is being made.
Digging into the meaning of “minutes” Wikipedia says: Minutes are the official written record of the meetings of an organization or group. They are not transcripts of those proceedings. Using Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised (RONR), the minutes should contain mainly a record of what was done at the meeting, not what was said by the members. The organization may have its own rules regarding the content of the minutes. So we see the limbo that video or audio recordings of meetings are in. Not legal but minutes none the less. As a ‘snapshot’ of history in Cobourg they are vital to our Heritage.
The comparison to this is the archiving of each edition of the Cobourg papers Cobourg World: The Sentinal Star, The Cobourg Star and now Northumberland Today. Each edition of these papers has been micro-fiched and kept for archival purposes at the Public Library. We wonder if the same can/should be done for the videos. We think they should but for reasons not released, the Council at the moment, disagrees and states that only the latest three months of meetings should be kept. We wonder if the ‘techies’ at Town Hall perceive a problem. We tell you what Town Council; if that is the case we can organise a collection to pay for an electronic freestanding “MyCloud’ to be attached to the Town’s main web-server so that we can keep the videos in house and accessible.
Researching the Internet brings up some mighty fine discussion and examples of other Municipal sites. For Instance the Municipality of Bowen Island (click here to see page) has been recording since 2012 and every meeting has been archived and linked to a webpage on the Municipal site. It is interesting to note this Municipality records most of the committees and advisory committees in action. On the other hand we see in a report of the Cornwall Standard Freeholder that when debated at the South Stormont Council a remark was made, by a Councillor “If we record this and file it for whatever reason, can this become a document to be used in a court of law to be used against members of council sitting there, members of staff who are sitting there who may unintentionally say something that just didn’t come out right,” he said. “I have concerns about recording and storing that information.” Not having heard any of the discussion that took place on Monday night we wonder whether any of our Councillors raised this as an issue. But just because other Municipalities destroy videos after a certain amount of time why should Cobourg?
In a conversation with the Bylaw/Policy person, a very nice young guy called Brent, Lorraine Brace was on holiday and unavailable for comment, it was revealed that the retention policy for videos has not yet been written and may be developed as we speak, but he also said that under the records retention policy that the minimum retention time for any document is three months. As the videos are not minutes only documents there is no legal requirement to keep them longer than than the minimum. In an email received during the writing of this post Lorraine Brace wrote: “The Council videos are to be stored for three months as recommended There is no specific retention for this purpose and this is the general practice as indicated by the records specialist when contacted”
But a case can be made that these documents are not ordinary documents they are in fact history in the making and threfore fall into a special category. This argument must be made to Council and the retention policy be amended in this case.