Supervisors split on taking questions from press

PAT FRIDGEN

Press conferences have been off the agenda of Antrim Township Board of Supervisors meetings since June 9. Two supervisors want the item back on and two do not. Fred Young III was not present at the Aug. 25 meeting when the issue surfaced.

Samuel Miller asked why the line item was dropped. Solicitor John Lisko replied that no other area township had such a session. Miller wanted to know the reason for the change. Administrator Brad Graham replied that he had made the suggestion to ease the relationship with the media, after talking to some supervisors.

"I was never talked to about that," Miller said. "We've always done it."

Chairman Curtis Myers told Miller to stay after the meetings to answer the questions then.

The board recessed for an executive session. A member of the audience revived the debate when the four returned.

"This business about the press, I don't quite understand what's driving that. What is the hurt if they ask during public comment? Why can't we just sit and talk?" asked Bob Smith.

Resident Dan Pellicano agreed, stating there was no onus for any supervisor to stick around after the meeting otherwise. He wondered about the transparency the board promoted. Regarding how other townships handled the press, Pellicano urged, "Why can't Antrim be better?"

Myers said it once took him 10 minutes to get the press out of the room so an executive session could begin. He wanted any press conference to be conducted in an orderly fashion.

"It's been done in an orderly manner for years," interjected supervisor James Byers, who favored returning it to the agenda.

Myers continued, "OK, next meeting we'll do that. We'll consider that."

Supervisor Rick Baer criticized reporters for passing notes back and forth, then asking questions that were answered during the meeting. Miller defended them. He believed often they just wanted clarity on issues.

Myers said not taking the time also saved taxpayer money and Baer added the school board did not have open dialogue with the press during its meetings.

Pellicano persisted in his desire for a return to the former policy, to which Myers told him to run for supervisor and change it. Byers and Miller again supported reinstating the press conference so questions could be asked in the open and each board member could speak for himself, and particular questions could be referred to Graham or other staff members as necessary.

Pellicano chastised Myers for being flippant repeatedly. "The comments you've made tonight are not typical civil comments I would expect."

"I appreciate your opinion," Myers concluded and asked for a motion to adjourn.