Concerned about the expenses involved in the New Hampshire Justice Department’s ongoing court battle to prevent voters from taking selfies in the voting booth, local activist and journalist Dave Ridley showed up to their budget workshop meeting, camera in hand, to ask members of the House Finance Committee how they felt about the mounting expenses in fighting the suit.
But committee members waisted little time in telling Ridley that he would not be allowed to video record the meeting.
Ridley, who has spent years covering the New Hampshire Legislature, is known for his gonzo-style journalism and his ambush interviews that often occur as representatives are arriving for public meetings and workshops. This incident was no different.
Ridley began greeting members of the committee as they arrived but as the meeting began Chairman Lynne Ober asks him, “Sir, I’m sorry, there is no photography in the committee room. Thank you,” the chairman tells him.
“Under what law would I be prohibited from filming?” Ridley responds.
She replies, “We have house rules. Please direct that question to the speaker’s office.”
“Well, I need to know more if you’re going to censure me…I need to know more, Ma’am.”
“We are in the middle of a hearing.” Ober snaps, cutting him off. Ridley continues to record the meeting though, until he is approached by what appears to be a security officer who asks him again to stop recording.
“I had planned to only spend about 3 minutes in the meeting itself and leave with maybe 35 seconds worth of video of it…. just enough to show people what the meeting looked like. The questionable restrictions made the meeting itself suddenly interesting. The original purpose for being in that area of the LOB was mostly to interview officials on their way to and from the meeting.”
As the video continues, Ridley leaves the meeting room to conduct other interviews in the hallway as more security arrives and he enters the meeting room again, camera rolling. Seconds later, A security officer Joe Burke appears in the doorway.
The video continues as Ridley is advised by members of the committee that he is being disruptive just as another committee members whips out his cell phone to begin recording Ridley.
Burke eventually escorts Ridley out of the meeting room and back into the hallway.
“So did you just break the law by removing me?” Ridley asks Burke.
“No, I did not. You’re welcome to stay in the hearing, they just said no filming…No recording because it’s not a public hearing.” Burke responds, but Ridley’s arguments against video being banned made no difference to the committee or to Burke who insisted that because the meeting was considered a “work session”, the chairman could forbid recording based on it being a disruption.