RALEIGH — A voice recorder was taken from a reporter during a North Carolina legislative committee meeting Tuesday, after a co-chairman said such devices must be approved. He later rescinded the comment, apologized and the recorder was returned.
Sen. Rick Gunn, R-Alamance, the committee chairman, initially said that audio devices needed to be approved in order to record meetings.
"All recording devices, whether audio and video, are required to be approved by the sergeant-at-arms, and I just say that as a courtesy to everybody," Gunn had said, according to a recording of the meeting by The Associated Press.
Gunn apologized later, saying he misspoke. Recording devices of all kinds are allowed, he said.
"All meetings have been, are now and ever should be open and transparent and I support that 100 percent," he said.
During the meeting there was a misunderstanding between committee staff and sergeant-at-arms staff, who notified him that there was an unattended device on the table, he said.
Gunn said there is no rule, or plans to make rules about approving or registering devices. At the meeting there was a "legitimate concern" from staff about an unattended recording device.
"That was probably not the best choice of words," he said. "When I spoke I realized it could have been construed ... that you're not allowed to have them."
Rose Hoban, a reporter with North Carolina Health News, said her recorder was taken during the meeting. She said she put her recorder on a side table and sat down to take notes as the meeting started. When she got up to check the time on the recorder, it was gone, she said.
She said she asked about the recorder and was told to talk to the sergeant-of-arms outside the room. She says she then spoke with Sergeant-at-Arms Philip King who said they have had problems in the past with recorders being left in rooms to record private conversations after meetings. Then her recorder was returned to her.
According to the North Carolina open meetings law, any person "may photograph, film, tape-record, or otherwise reproduce any part of a meeting required to be open."
If recording devices were required to be approved, that would violate the state open meetings law, said Amanda Martin, general counsel to the North Carolina Press Association.
"I don't really think they have the ability to do that," she said. "This makes it clear you have the ability to record."