Same law for all, even in Andrews

  • Friday, June 6, 2014

It would appear that if you are a council member on the Andrews Town Council, you forfeit your rights. That’s what happened to Councilwoman Sudah Patel last weekend as our story on the front page describes.

After being asked by the mayor to shut off her video recorder during a council meeting, when she refused, he asked for a motion from the council to force her to stop. The motion was made and seconded and all voted in favor.

When she continued to protest, she says, the Andrews police chief, K. Capers, threatened to have his lieutenant arrest her and take her to the Georgetown County Detention Center. The chief says he did not threaten to arrest her, simply have her escorted off the premises by the sheriff’s office and that he was simply following the minicipal handbook and “because they voted.” He said he sees the media as different.

Council members claim it was because she didn’t ask them first, it was because she wasn’t in the video. They claim she does not have the right under the state Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) laws. They claim those laws apply only to media and the public and she is not the public.

They are all wrong.

The laws apply to “any person” and she is “any person.”

So are they. So is the mayor.

They all have the right to videotape a meeting as long as the taping does not “interfere with the conduct of the meeting.”

The FOIA laws in this country, both state and federal, were not established for the media. They were established for the people. All of the people.

Since, according to one council member, all she had to do was ask, the videotaping wasn’t interfering with the conduct of the meeting.

The claim that she didn’t have the same rights as the public is ludicrous. One doesn’t lose one’s rights by being elected to public office.

Nor does one gain the right to trample others’ rights by being elected to public office.

The Andrews mayor and town council would do well to remember that.

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