The conversation between Gloucester County Administrator Brent Fedors and
citizen Chuck Thompson continues and it appears Mr.
Fedors has lightened his tone. Below are each party’s
latest replies. You be the judge. Gloucester
If you have an opinion on the administrator’s proposed audio policy, let him or the Board of Supervisors hear it. For your convenience we have provided the email addresses for all of them after the replies. To read other parts of this story and more just click on this link: http://www.gloucestercounty-va.com/
County Administrator's reply:
Mr. Thompson –
While I am sensitive to your concerns, I prefer not to debate your points that seem to twist the spirit of what I was trying to say into something different. In reading back through the email that I sent to you earlier, perhaps I should have used the word “and” instead of “nor” in the first sentence – I think it would have better communicated what I was trying to say – apologies if my poor choice of words caused any grief.
My point was that I am not inclined to open an investigation into issues handled by law enforcement or the judicial system for the express purpose of bunking (or debunking) the draft policy (if for no other reason because of my lack of authority to do so). Further, I did not interpret your initial emails as request to open an investigation, rather as an inquiry on draft future policy (which seemed to me to be the genesis of your concern). My interpretation seems (to me) to be substantiated by the subject matter of your follow-up meeting request – “a meeting regarding the policy of audio recordings of the public by county employees”.
With respect to actions of County employees… If you feel that your personal safety or the safety of your property is in danger, I would encourage you to immediately dial 911. If you feel that a County employee has committed a crime, I would encourage you to contact the State Police. If you feel that a County employee has violated a policy, I would ask that you bring that to my attention so that I may deal with it as a personnel matter.
Note that there is currently no policy regulating or disallowing audio recordings by staff. Addressing this potential gap in accountability is a primary purpose of the proposed policy.
I understand and have noted your objection to audio recordings by staff, however if you are of a mind to provide constructive feedback on the draft policy as written I would welcome it. The window for public input to the CA is open through this Thursday to allow time for June 6th meeting packet preparation.
With regards to your meeting request, unfortunately I cannot make the time you suggest on the 30th, however I am open all day (at this point) on the 31st. If this date will work for you, please let me know after you confirm with Mr. Meyer and Del. Hodges and I will reserve a room. If not, I will do my best to accommodate schedules to the best of my ability.
As an alternate, I would suggest that a meeting may not be needed to communicate your perspective and influence the draft policy in development… If schedules don’t seem to mesh, perhaps direct discussion or communication with your Supervisor and/or Delegate and/or voicing your opinions on the draft policy in the Citizen Comment portion of the June 6th meeting would suffice?
…just trying to offer some options…
J. Brent Fedors
Gloucester County, Virginia
6467 Main Street
Gloucester, VA 23061
Mr. Thompson's reply:
What really concerns me looking over the policy is that there is no time frame from when an audio recording stops to when it must be submitted for archiving. That is detrimental. To long of a time lapse is opportunity to alter the original recording. If an audio recording is done between a county employee and a member of the public, there needs to be a time limit for getting that recording to the county, signed in under penalty of perjury by the county employee by a top level supervisor who will be handling the recording, meta data must be noted for accuracy of the audio recording. (All computer files have meta data).
All audio recorders also produce their own meta data. If the audio recording is to be used against any member of the public, I would suggest that the county employee has only 30 minutes to get the audio onto a county storage system or the audio is considered null and void as though it was altered. No exceptions. That is where local history is very important and why you should have looked at the links. You would have found that meta data was missing from county audio recordings or the meta data was altered. No time or date stamps on anything. This is a very serious issue.
Now to elaborate on the 30 minute rule. Once a county employee has finished recording audio, then the employee is done with the present task at hand. From the farthest remote areas of the county, it would only take a maximum of 30 minutes to get back to the county job site where the audio needs to be entered into storage. That means the employee does not have time to tinker with the actual recording in any way shape or form.
I am very strong on the public being made aware of any audio and or video recordings by the county in any interactions. Where any form of investigation or actions are taking place, I would also recommend that the public be given the chance to equally record the interaction or wave their rights to do so. That way there are 2 records of the interaction and they can be compared should any member of the public wish to exercise those rights.
In the past, Animal Control always hid the audio recordings and would only present the recordings when they took people to court. Many found out the hard way that those audio recordings were horribly altered and were not at all accurate. But they were never told about being recorded or that recordings would be submitted as evidence in court. Why the judges allowed them without proper investigation is yet another serious issue not at your level to answer.
Regarding meta data from audio recorders. The meta data from all audio recorders are a series of numbers that are codes for time and date stamps. You have to contact the equipment manufacturer to get the interpretation for their codes as each manufacturer uses different codes. (I have talked to most of them which is how I know). Altering a recording also puts a meta stamp on the recording. So that should be quality checked to make sure you can trust your employees.
Preferring video recordings, those are much harder to alter and easy to spot if and when they are altered. Meta data is straight forward and there is little room for misinterpretations on videos. Body language speaks volumes that you can not get from an audio recording. You can also tap in to see where your employees are and what they are doing. If they are where they say they are supposed to be.
I can not support audio recordings by county employees without these extra and very stringent policies being put into place as the abuse in the past makes this mandatory in my own view. The objective is to create a trustworthy atmosphere. Without these extra stringent policies, I have no trust in the system.
Now regarding an investigation into past employee misconduct, yes, I and others would like to request investigations into such areas. You have two, in my opinion, nasty criminals in your employment, that are a danger to the public, with a very long record of illegal activity that I believe can be proven. I would like to request that John Meyer and Keith Hodges be involved and that this be voluntary and that a fair hearing be done because I will suggest you think of what the potential alternative might be if a voluntary investigation isn't done and one has already been underway but needs further review from you. I know you are limited in scope as to what you can do, but I am requesting you do what you can do within your scope.
At this point, a meeting next week isn't needed unless you have more questions about any area of the above that you do not think can be answered in email. I appreciate your considerations.