The Sentinel has challenged Johnson County Board of Commissioners Chair Mike Kelly’s excuse for restricting public comments and meeting access in BOCC meetings using an outdated guideline from YouTube. But Kelly didn’t respond to our request to substantiate or withdraw his claim.
Kelly informed commissioners last week that he was unilaterally instituting the following policy to change the ways citizens can access meetings and speak in public comment periods:
- The BOCC will no longer livestream nor record the public comment period at the beginning of the meeting
- The public will no longer have a virtual option for public comments during the beginning of the meeting, nor during a specific agenda item
- Advance registration will be required for general public comment and comment on action agenda items
Kelly defended his action as an effort to combat “misinformation” from citizens and said, “Subsequent violations could lead to the county losing access to our YouTube channel,”
However, our research uncovered a Washington Post story from August 7, 2021, contradicting Chairman Kelly’s statement. In the story, reporter Caroline Anders wrote that in response to censorship concerns from local officials:
“YouTube has reversed course, telling The Washington Post on Friday that it had updated guidelines to “make exceptions for videos of school board or town hall meetings, where the intention isn’t to promote misinformation.”
For comment, we sent the following email to Chairman Kelly:
“According to this Washington Post story, YouTube says it WILL NOT remove school board or town hall meetings over public comments. Unless you have something more recent from YouTube, there seems to be no justification for your actions.
Will you rescind your order?”
We did not receive a response from Commission Chair Mike Kelly.