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Walker Tape Gate: Public Process vs. Protecting Privacy

A dispute has broken out over access to audio recordings of meetings being held by Walker Industries on their proposed landfill in Beachville. A public member of the Community Liaison Committee, that meets once per month, is raising issue with Walker's providing access to recordings of their committee meetings. Mike Farlow from Ingersoll, who volunteered to be on the CLC, claims Walker has not been keeping accurate minutes of the meetings, and has misled committee members in the process. So, the CLC public members asked that meetings be recorded. However, to be able to bring those recordings home, the members are being asked to sign a waver (in photo on right, click to enlarge), which Farlow disagrees with. "These are audio recordings of a public meeting, involving a process that is supposed to be open and transparent. So anyone really should be able to come and get these recordings. We were told we could, but we had to sign this waver, and we had to return them in 2-days, and were threatened with legal action if we didn't follow the rules: you can copy it, and you can't have a copy for yourself." The members can also listen back to the tapes at Walker's office, but Farlow complains they're only open 4-days a week from 8AM-4PM. General Manager of Strategic Growth with Walker, Joe Lyng, explains why there's red tape involving the tapes. "We have to be very conscious of the fact that there are privacy issues on this committee. Without getting a disclaimer from everybody around the table saying they don't mind their recorded voice is then provided to anybody for any use, we have to be very conscious and respectful of that, so that's why we have people sign the waver." Lyng claims that some CLC members have received threats in the community, as some perceive their participation on the CLC as somehow endorsing the landfill proposal. He says it is for this reason they want to protect having the CLC discussions from leaking out and being misconstrued in the public realm. "What we don't want to see is someone putting that out on a website or a broadcast and have phrases taken out of context. It may not be what the person meant and to get a larger sense of what was said, you actually have to play 5 or 10 minutes of the tape. To be respectful to that, we'll keep the tapes for the use of our CLC members to check the accuracy of the minutes." Farlow says he's never been threatened, and is concerned Walker being overprotective of the tapes, is more sinister, "It's the only accurate record. My concern is if these disappear then the only accurate record of our input disappears. They are going to be destroyed. They were going to be destroyed during the process, but now we've got an agreement...they will hold onto them until the Terms of Reference have been accepted." The next CLC meeting is coming up on January 23rd.

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