Denton City Hall exterior for stock photo use

Denton City Hall.

It will be awhile before the public can listen to meeting recordings for Denton’s Board of Ethics.

The meetings have been audio recorded, but the recordings aren’t posted online along with the 12 archived agendas and minutes posted so far. Board members learned Wednesday that the city staff doesn’t have the technology to do so.

The news bothered board members, who wondered why there wasn’t some way to work around the problem.

“We don’t want people to think we’re hiding the ball,” said Lara Tomlin, board chairwoman.

City Auditor Umesh Dalal told board members that his office would provide copies of recordings to anyone who asked. But he was also told to ask for the board’s patience, he said.

“They asked if you could wait a little bit longer,” Dalal said. “They foresee a solution very soon.”

The City Council agreed in April to expand the city’s video recording capabilities by buying new equipment that can auto-record meetings. The additional capacity would free up some staff time for other projects, but it wasn’t unlimited either.

The equipment comes with a support contract that allows the city a certain number of recordings per year. The agreement the staff recommended would support the city’s current meeting schedule plus a bit more.

Currently, the city livestreams and video archives council meetings along with the Planning and Zoning Commission, Public Utilities Board, Economic Development Partnership Board, Mobility Committee and Traffic Safety Commission. Council members have not yet decided which of the other board or commission meetings would be added to the list.

Earlier in the meeting, City Attorney Aaron Leal explained to board members why he and the other attorneys in his office have been taking a hands-off approach when the ethics board is handling complaints.

Texas has its own rules of conduct for attorneys, Leal said. Because he is an appointee of the City Council, he cannot advise the Board of Ethics when it is hearing a complaint about a council member.

“I am appointed by them and serve at their pleasure. It puts me in an awkward position and the appearance of a conflict of interest is there,” Leal said.

The board agreed it would continue to seek advice from outside, independent attorneys when taking up complaints against council members. They asked Leal whether they needed to formally request a change to the ethics ordinance that specifies the need.

Leal said he expected to be able to recommend the change when the time came.

The City Council is tentatively scheduled to take up more than a half-dozen needed changes to the ethics ordinance when it reconvenes Tuesday.

PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881 and via Twitter at @phwolfe DRC.

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