N.Y. student journalist wins right to tape record public meetings

A New York state court ruled in September that the College of Staten Island Association violated state open meeting and open records laws when it conducted a secret ballot and prohibited a student journalist from tape recording its meetings.

Pointing to a recent ruling by New York’s highest court, Richmond County Supreme Court Judge Peter Cusick ruled that the Association was clearly a public body subject to both the state open records law and open meetings law, which made use of a secret ballot impermissible. Cusick also found that the Association acted illegally when it refused to allow student reporter Neil Schuldiner to tape record its meetings because of the Association director’s concern that the recordings could be used against the Association in court.

“The blanket prohibition against the use of audio tape recordings is violative of the public policy embodied in [New York freedom of information law],” Cusick wrote.

This New York ruling is similar to decisions in other states finding that taping of public meetings is permissible as long as it is done in an unobtrusive manner. Moreover, many state public meeting laws actually contain provisions allowing for audio taping, video taping or both.

Case: Schuldiner v. City University, No. 8236/98 (Richmond Cty. Sup. Ct., Sept. 13, 1999).