GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – Green Bay alders took a major step Wednesday night towards removing controversial audio recording equipment from city hall.
At a parks committee meeting, alders voted unanimously to direct city staff to amend ordinances that will pave the way for the removal of audio recording equipment in city hall. All recordings associated with the audio recording equipment will get deleted once a lawsuit on the matter gets resolved.
Common council will vote on these measures at their meeting on Tuesday. Common council doesn’t have the authority to remove the audio recording devices themselves under current city ordinances which is why they have to vote to direct city staff to amend the ordinances.
The city installed audio recording devices in some sections of city hall in December 2021 and July 2022. Many people, including alders, were unaware of the audio recording devices until the city put up signs last month.
Many people are upset saying the audio recording devices violate their constitutional rights.
“There were concerns about city staff and the public about their personal safety and in response to that, that is why they were put up,” said Green Bay operations chief Joe Faulds.
“This super simple explanation wouldn’t fly with a kindergartner, I mean how can you think that legally, ethically that could fly,” said alder Chris Wery.
Alders peppered Faulds and city attorney Joanne Bungert with questions about the audio recording devices. Pending litigation on the matter limited what city staff was able to talk about which caused several contentious exchanges.
They weren’t able to say who made the decision to install the audio recording devices which is a question shared by many.
City purchases that total below $25,000 don’t have to be approved by city council which is why alders weren’t in the loop about the recording devices.
Faulds and Bungert said the city sent out an email to all of its employees in December 2021 informing them of the audio recording devices. The email went to all employees with a city email address, but alders said they didn’t receive the email.
Faulds and Bungert also said that the city clerk, mayor, and several other city employees had access to the recordings from the audio devices. They couldn’t say with certainty whether these employees had actually listened to the recordings. They did say that the recordings aren’t continuously monitored.
Mayor Eric Genrich wasn’t at the meeting on Wednesday night, something several alders and members of the public at the meeting pointed out.
Genrich has the ability to order the audio devices removed from city hall, but so far has refused to do so.