Tape recording public gatherings and attendee rights
Q: I live in a resident owned mobile home park. I am also a board member. At the last board meeting, a resident taped the meeting. This bothered many of the residents. When a resident asked the board about this, the person taping the meeting interrupted then snapped at her saying that it was legal. The person taping sat directly in back of the girl who questioned her taping, clicking the tape on and off. The resident explained to us that this was not only annoying, but, now she feared being bullied by this resident who was taping.
Do residents have the legal right to ask this woman not to tape the meeting or tape their conversations, questions or comments at the meeting? Does the person taping require permission from residents, those residents who are in attendance and wish to speak openly, to tape people at this private meeting? Our board understands that the process to ban taping will take 6 months to comply with the laws; however, what rights do the other residents have (who also attend the meetings) in this case?
A: California law does not prohibit the taping of board meetings. Under California’s Penal Code section 632, it is illegal to tape record a “confidential communication” without the consent of all parties to the communication. However, the statute defines “confidential communication” in such a way that it excludes statements made in a meeting of the board of a mobile home park, which means that the meetings can be taped without permission: “The term ‘confidential communication’ includes any communication carried on in circumstances as may reasonably indicate that any party to the communication desires it to be confined to the parties thereto, but excludes a communication made in a public gathering or in any legislative, judicial, executive or administrative proceeding open to the public, or in any other circumstance in which the parties to the communication may reasonably expect that the communication may be overheard or recorded.” Whether the board can amend its bylaws to prohibit taping of the board’s meetings — and, if so, how — is something that the board should discuss with its attorneys.