FOIA Paranoia

I consider myself an independent and not a member of any political party or group. I have only attended a handful of County Council meetings in the past, but the events of the last Council meeting have stirred me to action. I have chosen to make it a mission to archive as many past and future County Council meetings as possible for the sole purpose of making all citizens aware of the topics and discussions by posting them to YouTube at No commentary or opinion, just our elected officials in their own words.

I chose to start with the Public Retreat meeting that was held in Columbia on Saturday. Due to a scheduling conflict, I sent my daughter and her husband. As a courtesy, I called the Clerk to Council (which was not required by the FOIA) to make her aware that someone would be there on my behalf to video the meetings.

First thing, Councilman Kamau Marcharia immediately objected to it being recorded and said he had been told that a group would be recording the meeting. He demanded to know who was recording this meeting and carried on for several minutes, not stopping until he had brow beaten my German son-in-law into submission. The Clerk waited long into his tirade before announcing that she had been notified and she then publicly disclosed to the room my name and address, which is not required by the FOIA and, as I understand, has never been required of anyone in the past who has recorded/videoed the council proceedings.

Apparently all Council members need to brush up on the Freedom of Information Act, section 30-4-90(4)(c) (“All or any part of a meeting of a public body may be recorded by any person in attendance by means of a tape recorder or any other means of sonic or video reproduction.”). This would include all three new Council members, especially Mr. Billy Smith who when he was on our side of the plastic chain was a bull dog for the truth and transparency but now apparently has been reduced to French poodle for the Council.

I’m truly disappointed by the fear of transparency from the old guard and lack of concern by the new. I guess we will be seeing lots of each other in the near future.

Allen Gantt



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