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Council reconsiders vote to install cameras at City Hall

Privacy concerns prompted Gold Hill City Council Monday to reconsider its decision last week to install cameras inside City Hall.

Mayor Jan Fish, who cast the tie-breaking vote March 2, called Monday's special meeting to ask for a reversal, saying she had second thoughts after talking with the city's insurance company.

"What the insurance company said was, if we have any cameras in City Hall or in offices, they need to be noticed," Fish said. "So people know that they may be on camera. And they definitely recommended we not have cameras in individual offices."

Councilor Donna Silva pushed for the cameras after an issue last year that prompted Deputy Recorder Mary Goddard to file a Bureau of Labor and Industries complaint against the city for not responding to her complaints of sexual harassment by City Manager Rick Hohnbaum. 

Goddard alleged that Hohnbaum repeatedly unzipped his pants and exposed his underwear in front of women, and that the council failed to do anything about it when it was reported.

Silva and Councilor Chris Stanley on March 2 voted for the cameras, believing they would eliminate any confusion about behavior taking place at City Hall and would help ensure employee safety and accountability. The other two councilors present that day, Margaret Dials and Gus Wolf, voted against the idea, leaving Fish to cast the tie-breaking vote in favor.

On Monday, councilors Wolf, Doug Reischman, Karen Baker and Dials voted yes to reconsidering the March 2 decision. Silva and Stanley voted no. The council tabled any definitive decision on whether to install cameras and where.

Fish asked the council to brainstorm specific guidelines for camera use at City Hall.

Silva voiced disappointment at the council's "backpedaling."

"I would just like to say I am still in favor of the cameras and where I've stated for them to be put," Silva said, noting that "most cities" have surveillance cameras and that, "at the very least," she would like to see cameras in common areas, with employees given an option to have cameras in their individual offices.

Reischman said he felt law enforcement should be called if employees had concerns about anything happening at City Hall. Reischman and Councilor Gus Wolf both said they still preferred cameras downtown to help deter crime.

Silva added, "I just find it funny that you guys are all for putting cameras downtown. People that don't break the law, walking their kids to the store getting ice cream, are going to be on camera, but yet when you have a problem at City Hall, you don't want to see that?"

Medford freelance writer Buffy Pollock may be reached at buffyp76@yahoo.com.