A sign at Nahant Town Hall. (JAKOB MENENDEZ)
Local Government and Politics

Nahant Planning Board no longer recording meetings

NAHANT – During their last meeting of 2021, the Planning Board voted 6-1 to stop the recording and publication of their meetings.

Chair Daniel Berman declined to use his position to institute this policy and instead put the matter to a board vote. The motion was first made by member J. Shannon Bianchi and was seconded by Sheila Hambleton. The item was not originally on the agenda.

"I would like to return to kind of the old-school ways of handling committees," Bianchi stated. "I understand the ConComm (Conservation Committee) doesn't record their meetings. I'd like a little bit more privacy with things being on YouYube and I think that we can conduct our meetings without being video recorded."

Berman stated that it was not necessary to record or post meetings, which was later confirmed by Town Counsel Daniel Skrip. Berman also indicated that, in the past, individuals have logged onto meetings with fake names. Berman also mentioned that Planning Board meetings began to be recorded and posted on YouTube without the Planning Board's prior knowledge.

Hambleton stated that she seconded the motion because the Planning Board has an open meeting and she wants interested parties to follow the minutes and to not have conflicting information from a video. Berman also noted that people could just watch the video without looking at the minutes.

Patrick O’Reilly was the lone member of the board to dissent to the halting of recordings, due to the increased transparency recording meetings offer, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic forcing individuals to work remotely.

"I thought the strongest argument for suspending the recordings was that continuing to publish the recordings could have a chilling effect on the free flow of discussion amongst the board and public when people become self-conscious about the video being published on YouTube," he added Friday afternoon. "I voted to continue with the recordings simply because I felt that, while the board was still primarily having remote meetings, that it was still of value and would allow for more people to be able to catch up on discussions they missed.

"But I was very much sympathetic to the concerns of the majority," he added.

O'Reilly later said that he wasn't too keen about publishing on YouTube, but hoped to have recording meetings available as another form of public record.

Bianchi was also concerned about the decision making it look like the board was hiding something. Skrip said that wouldn't be the case.

More Stories From Nahant