Before the start of a Tuesday, Sept. 13 meeting of the Summerfield Town Council, Teresa Perryman – who’s a former Town Council member but is still active in the town’s affairs – placed a small voice recorder on the table used by the Town Council members so she could get a high-quality recording of the proceedings.
However, controversy ensued when Summerfield City Manager Scott Whitaker picked up the recorder and told Perryman she could not put it there.
Perryman has hearing difficulties and she said she wanted to hear what was said, which is why she left the recording close up in a central spot in front of the mayor.
Whitaker has had numerous confrontations with Perryman over the years,
Perryman told the Rhino Times that she asked Whitaker the reason she couldn’t leave the recorder at the table.
“He just gave some vague answer and said something like we could talk about it later,” she said.
Perryman was told that she could place it at another spot further away.
Don Wendelken, a politically involved Summerfield resident who owns and runs the Summerfield Scoop newspaper and a news and opinion website at www.summerfieldnews.com, voiced an objection at the time of the incident. After the meeting, Wendelken asked Town Attorney Bob Hornick why the recorder wasn’t allowed at the table in a public meeting.
Wendelken wrote on his news website: “Hornick stated it created a disturbance for council members because they may have conversations/discussions during the meeting, and it could be placed at a table away from the council.”
An angry Perryman expressed her dissatisfaction during speakers from the floor moments later at the start of the Sept. 13 meeting.
She said she has placed a recorder on the table before at Summerfield Town Council meetings with no objection.
“I was angry,” she said of the Sept. 13 meeting. “It’s my recorder; it’s a public meeting – I can record it.”
NC law states: “A public body may regulate the placement and use of equipment necessary for broadcasting, photographing, filming, or recording a meeting, so as to prevent undue interference with the meeting. However, the public body must allow such equipment to be placed within the meeting room in such a way as to permit its intended use, and the ordinary use of such equipment shall not be declared to constitute undue interference.”
Perryman said there’s no way her very small recorder on the table interfered or disrupted the meeting in any way.