Representatives from local community groups are outraged “at being filmed by the mayor” in the public gallery at the last North Down Borough Council meeting.
Following a denial by the town clerk Trevor Polley of reports that DUP councillor John Montgomery took a camera into the council chambers to film ‘peaceful protestors’ during the last meeting (January 25), pictures soon emerged on the internet to confirm |otherwise.
Independent councillor Austen Lennon said: “The council voted in 2001 not to film or record any council meetings, so these actions totally go against council policy.
“I believe Mr Montgomery was very ill-advised to do this. The town clerk, Trevor Polley, who sat beside him and kept quiet, should have made him aware of the rules as this sends such a negative |message to the electorate.
“Those in the public gallery had the democratic right to make a peaceful protest that day, which they did.
“The mayor’s action and Mr Polley’s inaction could be seen as intimidatory and may frighten people from making legitimate and peaceful protests if they feel the council are wrong in some of their decisions.
“It says ‘if you don’t abide by our rules, we will videotape you — and possibly use it against you in the future’.”
Those who photographed the mayor using his camera defended their position on using a camera themselves in the chambers.
Jamie Bryson, a local community worker and one of the protestors said: “We couldn’t believe the mayor was filming us, the red light was flashing on the camera and he kept adjusting it.
“One of the protestors felt we should capture what we were being subjected to.
“The council are on the hokey cokey again. When we first approached the town clerk about this he said there definitely was no camera — confronted with photo evidence, he says there was a camera, but that the mayor wasn’t taking photos.
“So we sent him the picture of the mayor with his hand on the camera.”
North Down Borough Council and councillor John Montgomery declined to comment.