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Victoria County to broadcast public meetings on Internet

March 12, 2014
Original Publication : March 10, 2014 by Melissa Crowe
Victoria Advocate

Victoria County officials want to change the way public meetings are recorded.

The commissioners court voted Monday in favor of new software that will broadcast live public meetings on the county's website, doing away with long-form typed minutes.

County Clerk Robert Cortez said the IQM2 Inc. software, which costs $595 monthly, will streamline his employees' and the IT department's duties.

"Our ultimate goal is to reduce cost and improve efficiency of county government and enhance our transparency and open government," Cortez said.

Minutes that correlate to video clips will be available on the website. The recording will become the official record.

Kelley Shannon, executive director of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas, said she is aware that many municipalities and counties are turning to technology to become more efficient.

It can be a positive, so long as more traditional means are still implemented, she said.

"What we don't want is for there to be barriers for people who want to find out about their government," Shannon said.

According to the U.S. Census, a quarter of Americans live in households without Internet use at home.

"We always want to have plenty of access, and making use of technology is a great thing, but we have to remember there are those who really need some other type of access," she said. "We hope governmental entities are mindful of the entire public."

County Judge Don Pozzi said the change is likely to be mandated during the next legislative session.

It was introduced in the previous session as House Bill 889.

"It's all about transparency," Pozzi said.

Commissioners were concerned that human error with the new software could end up broadcasting closed session discussions.

Commissioner Gary Burns said he does not want the court's concern "to be misconstrued" as trying to hide something.

It "brings up a huge issue" in dealing with security matters from the sheriff's office, Commissioner Kevin Janak said.

Pozzi said he thinks the change is a step in the right direction.

The new software, which is paid for from the records management fund, is expected to be in place within three weeks.

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