City Hall’s recording system, broken for 5 months, fixed in the nick of time

Due to an undiscovered technical problem, no meetings were recorded at Aberdeen City Hall’s third floor chambers between Aug. 13, 2013, to Jan. 16 due to a lack of a microphone connection.

The malfunction was found when Aberdeen Councilman Jim Cook requested a recording of the Planning Commission’s public meeting Jan. 9 on the proposed rezoning of part of Think of Me Hill from single to multi-family dwellings.

“Everything appeared to be working fine and the system showed that it was recording. Only it wasn’t. Some thingamabob wasn’t installed and the sound wasn’t actually being recorded even though the screen said it was in record mode,” said City Attorney Eric Nelson in an email.

The Planning Commission meeting was contentious and Cook, who opposes the rezone, was not pleased the recording was not available. Community Development Director Lisa Scott copied her handwritten notes and provided them to Cook and to others who made the request for the recording as well, she said.

“It was determined that when we upgraded the computer in the council chambers in August (to allow wireless access to the city’s network), the microphone system had not been attached to the computer CPU,” a memo prepared by Finance Director Kathryn Skolrood to staff and council states.

Over the time frame, there are no recordings for “ … the following public meetings: Planning Commission, Board of Adjustment, Building Code Commission, Board of Appeals and city council meetings. Formal minutes of these meetings do exist and have been appropriately filed and maintained according to the State of Washington records retention rules,” Skolrood’s memo states.

The recording system has been fixed, which is important because the city has a quasi-judicial proceeding on the matter coming up soon, which must be recorded.

“In short, failure to record the (Planning Commission) meeting does not affect the legality of the re-zone process,” wrote Nelson. “If we had not caught the recording error before the city council hearing, we would have had to back the process up and repeat the hearing to make a proper record.”

“We are fortunate that there were no quasi-judicial decisions made by any Boards or Commissions … while the system was not recording,” Nelson said. Skolrood confirmed that none of the hearings by the boards or commissions during the time period were quasi-judicial in nature.

The deadline for appealing land use decisions to Superior Court is 21 days, Nelson said.

The Think of Me Hill quasi-judicial hearing before the city council on the proposed rezone is scheduled for Feb. 12. Cook, who owns property on the hill, plans to recuse himself from that formal hearing.

Erin Hart, 360-537-3932, Twitter: @DW_Erin


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