Albion Park resident Sonya McKay says frustration at changes to Shellharbour City Council’s Code of Meeting Practice were behind her protest at last week’s council meeting, where she sat handcuffed and gagged for her four-minute representation.
The council’s recently adopted Code of Meeting Practice saw a new clause added prohibiting an individual from filming or recording council meetings.
Although the council itself records and broadcasts meetings, the recordings may be stopped or edited if comments made are deemed defamatory.
Media outlets are permitted to record the meeting as it is considered to be for a public not private purpose.
Earlier this year the council’s recording of a meeting was halted when it was believed Ms McKay was about to make a defamatory comment, so Ms McKay began filming her own presentations on her mobile phone.
After being refused permission to film last week, Ms McKay staged her silent protest.
As she sat gagged and handcuffed, councillors spent 15 minutes debating whether Ms McKay was should be allowed to stage what some labelled ‘‘a stunt’’.
In the end councillors and the public gallery sat in silence for the duration of Ms McKay’s four minute allocation, a tense atmosphere broken when Cr Peter Moran jokingly moved for an extension of time.
Ms McKay said she took her own mobile phone footage to protect herself.
However Shellharbour Mayor Marianne Saliba said the clause was introduced because Ms McKay was not only filming herself but people in the public gallery and complaints had been made by members of the public.
Cr Saliba said the council had a responsibility to ensure meetings were conducted in a proper manner.
‘‘There has been no attempt to gag Ms McKay, she speaks on a regular basis, generally on three items per meeting,’’ Cr Saliba said.
‘‘We don’t deny her an opportunity to speak on any items that are in reports on the business paper.’’
However Ms McKay did have some sympathy from some of the councillors.
Cr Peter Moran said he did not understand why there was an issue with individuals recording their own addresses to council or why people in the gallery would have a problem being filmed if they are doing what they are supposed to do.
‘‘Members of the public gallery have already given permission to be filmed by the council so I don’t see what the issue is,’’ Cr Moran said.