Videotaped of open meeting and reproduction

Videotaped of open meeting and reproduction

Q: Re: CPRA request for audio taped record of open meeting: I have submitted a request for copies of tapes made of 3 open hospital board meetings, held within 3 weeks of each other. I submitted the request well before 30 days had passed from the first meeting, and before the minutes had been transcribed or approved by the board (in fact, the minutes have not yet been published or approved, as the next meeting is 4 days from today).

I have been told that the secretary has no means to copy the tapes and that she plans to tape over the tapes I have requested if I have not figured out a way to copy the tapes myself before the next meeting (in 4 days). The President of the Board has stated that I have every right to a copy but that they have no way to give me one. I do not wish to listen to it in the secretary’s office. I want my own copy.

I have no equipment to do such a tape copy. I have proposed that, since the secretary plans to reuse the tapes and not to preserve them, that they simply give me the original tape and I will give them a new tape of the same type and quality. That will satisfy my request for an audio tape of the meetings, and the Hospital will have a new tape to use.

They are balking at giving me the tape even though they plan to tape over the contents.

How do I address this? Are there any precedents or statutes I can cite in my appeal of their essential refusal to give me the public records I have requested?

A: The Brown Act, in Government Code section 54953.5, only requires that the board make the tape available for “inspection” in its offices without charge on a tape recorded provided by the board.  It does not say anything about obtaining a copy of the tape.

However, the section also says that the tape shall be subject to inspection pursuant to the California Public Records Act.  Under the PRA, the right to inspect includes the right to request a copy, and upon that request the board is obligated to make you a copy.  See Government Code section 6256.

The statute does not specifically address the situation where an agency says it does not have the ability to make a copy.  As would be true of paper copies, it would be the board’s obligation to either purchase a machine that can make a copy or send the tape to an outside vendor that can make a copy.  Under the PRA, there is no provision for denying a request on the ground the agency does not have the ability to make a copy.  The board can, however, charge you the “direct costs of duplication.”