NEFAC, Vermont Press Association Defend Right to Record Public Meetings

CONTACT Justin Silverman | 774.244.2365 |


The New England First Amendment Coalition and the Vermont Press Association recently urged the City of Barre Diversity and Equity Committee to allow members of the public to record meetings in compliance with state and federal law.

During a June 8 public meeting of the committee, Vice Chair Ellen Kaye and Chair Joelen Mulvaney asked Barre city councilman Michael Boutin to stop video recording. A community access television station, however, was allowed to continue its recording of the meeting.

“The Committee may not prohibit members of the public from engaging in their right to record future public meetings,” NEFAC and VPA wrote in a June 21 letter to the committee. “[S]uch recording is not just legally protected but encouraged under the law.”

Vermont’s constitution requires that “all officers of government, whether legislative or executive, are [the people’s] trustees and servants; and at all times, in a legal way, accountable to them,” wrote the organizations. Vermont’s open meetings law upholds this demand for government accountability and allows the public the right to record public meetings, as long as it does not disrupt the meeting, NEFAC and VPA explained.

When responding to a question during the meeting about why recording is not allowed, Mulvaney said the committee’s meetings aren’t “entertainment.”

NEFAC and VPA, however, noted in their letter that:

“[M]uch like a person doesn’t have to provide a reason for asking for a public record in Vermont, a person engaged in protected First Amendment activity such as recording a public meeting need not give a reason for exercising their rights. Public officials cannot forbid the exercise of those rights simply because they do not align with their viewpoints or because they may invite further public scrutiny.”

NEFAC is the region’s leading advocate for the First Amendment and the public’s right to know about government. All coalition briefs, advocacy letters and statements can be found here.

NEFAC was formed in 2006 to advance and protect the Five Freedoms of the First Amendment, including the principle of the public’s right to know. We’re a broad-based organization of people who believe in the power of an informed democratic society. Our members include lawyers, journalists, historians, academics and private citizens.

Our coalition is funded through contributions made by those who value the First Amendment and who strive to keep government accountable. Please make a donation here.

Leadership Circle donors include the Rhode Island Foundation, The Boston Globe, Paul and Ann Sagan, and the Robertson Foundation. Major Supporters include Boston University, Hearst Connecticut Media Group, the Academy of New England Journalists, the Society of Professional Journalists Foundation, Genie Gannett for the First Amendment Museum, Linda Pizzuti Henry, the Champa Charitable Foundation Fund and Connecticut Public.