Uncategorized

Happy Sunshine Week: Why did Sen. Tillman try to remove documentary filmmakers from a public meeting?

photo (15)

Sen. Jerry Tillman with Wake Forest filmmakers

Yesterday, during a meeting of the NC Educator Effectiveness and Compensation Task Force, Sen. Jerry Tillman and
sergeant-at-arms Mr. Philip King approached the press section of room 544 of the Legislative Office Building to speak with two documentary filmmakers from Wake Forest University.

Monica Berra, co-director of a film that will look at the sweeping changes brought to North Carolina’s education system thanks to recent legislative actions, told NC Policy Watch that first, sergeant-at-arms King, and then Sen. Tillman, told her and her colleague, Tom Green, that they could not film the meeting without prior approval.

“Are you members of the press? Did you check in with someone,” prodded King.

Berra explained that she and her colleague were there as members of the press to film for their documentary and that they had come to the last meeting of the task force and did not need prior approval then to film.

King responded that they would need approval for filming from one of the chairs of the meeting– in this case, either Sen. Tillman or Rep. Bryan.

Tillman, who came over to the press section after a few minutes of back and forth between King and the filmmakers, said to the co-directors, “we can’t just have people coming in here and start filming.”

“He then cited school board meetings as an example of needing prior approval to film,” Berra told NC Policy Watch.

Finally, Berra said, Tillman and King told them they could film the meeting, just not in the press area.

Berra and her colleague stayed put, though, and after he conferred with legislative staff, Tillman came back over to the press area and apologized to Berra, saying “the ruling is that you can stay.”

In accordance with the NC Open Meetings Law, all official meetings of public bodies are open to the public. Further, “any person may photograph, film, tape-record, or otherwise reproduce any part of a meeting required to be open.”

There is no mention in the statute of needing prior approval from a meeting’s chair. Any member of the public should be able to attend and film public meetings. School board meetings and meetings of legislative task forces would apply under that rule.

There is a stipulation in the law that says, “A public body may regulate the placement and use of equipment necessary for broadcasting, photographing, filming, or recording a meeting, so as to prevent undue interference with the meeting.”

However, in the case of the filmmakers, their equipment as it was set up in the press section did not appear to be grounds for interfering with the business of the meeting.

Berra and Green, who are working on the documentary for their MFA program at Wake Forest University, will call the film “Teaching from the Floor.”

In addition to looking at the vast array of legislative changes to education in North Carolina, the film will hone in on the degree to which the state’s teachers have a voice in shaping education policy.

Sen. Tillman did not respond to an inquiry seeking clarification about why he sought to block the filmmakers from the meeting.

Check Also

Changing hats, but my focus remains on education

Dear NC Policy Watch readers, It’s been a ...

Top Stories from NCPW

  • News
  • Commentary

A pivotal legislative task force may be just beginning its dive into North Carolina’s school funding [...]

The controversy over “Silent Sam,” the Confederate monument on UNC’s Chapel Hill campus, has been ra [...]

North Carolina tries to mine its swine and deal with a poop problem that keeps piling up A blanket o [...]

This story is part of "Peak Pig," an examination of the hog industry co-published with Env [...]

Republicans in Congress are rushing to advance a tax reform bill that balloons the federal deficit s [...]

The post Charitable donations and the GOP’s chopping block appeared first on NC Policy Watch. [...]

13---percentage of households in the U.S. that were food insecure on average from 2014-2016. Meaning [...]

Five years ago, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a jaw-dropping civil rights lawsuit again [...]

Spotlight on Journalism

We invite you to join a special celebration of investigative journalism! The evening will feature Mike Rezendes, a member of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Boston Globe Spotlight Team known for their coverage of the cover-up of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.

Tickets available NOW!

Spotlight On Journalism

This event will benefit NC Policy Watch, a project of the North Carolina Justice Center. Sponsorship opportunities available now!

Featured | Special Projects

NC Budget 2017
The maze of the NC Budget is complex. Follow the stories to follow the money.
Read more


NC Redistricting 2017
New map, new districts, new lawmakers. Here’s what you need to know about gerrymandering in NC.
Read more