Leaders on two Turlock boards are questioning whether their meetings are accessible and transparent to the public.
The Turlock Irrigation District Board of Directors meet at 9 a.m. every Tuesday, when most people are working and unable to attend the meetings. Those meetings are neither broadcast nor recorded, making them completely inaccessible to many.
The Turlock Parks, Arts and Recreation Commission meets at a time that's more accessible to the working man or woman – 6 p.m. on the second Wednesday of each month. But its meetings are also not broadcast or recorded.
Directors and commissioners are raising questions about the lack of transparency inherent with those policies.
TID Director Michael Frantz said the time has come to video record the board's meeting. Those recordings should be broadcast and archived online, he said, to improve transparency.
"I know it's complicated, I know it's expensive, I know it's an IT nightmare," Frantz said.
Other districts, like the Modesto Irrigation District, have been able to overcome that complication. And both the Turlock City Council and the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors broadcast their meetings online as well.
Broadcasting meetings online won't completely solve TID's transparency issues, Director Rob Santos said. The early morning meetings stifle interaction, he said, lobbying for a change in meeting time.
The board should hold one nighttime meeting each month, Santos said, allowing for working persons to actually attend meetings and interact with the board. He acknowledged staff is opposed to the idea, as it will cut into their personal evening schedules.
"I stand by having one evening meeting per month," Santos said. "I know there's a lot of push back from staff… I just think that, in this day and age, people are up late."
Frantz argued that, perhaps, there would be more transparency in posting a video online from daytime meetings, than in meeting at night. Director Charlie Fernandes agreed with Frantz, but Santos said both could be done.
The PARC is undergoing a similar discussion, spurred by Commissioner Jeremy Rocha's question if commission's meetings could be broadcast via cable television, just like Turlock City Council's meetings.
There's no issue with obtaining the airwaves, Turlock Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities Director Allison Van Guilder said. California State University, Stanislaus, which operates the local access channel, has airtime available.
The issue comes with cost, as the city would be required to pay an IT technician to operate the videography equipment during meetings. That would cost about $61 per hour, factoring in overtime and benefits, and no budget exists for the expenditure, Van Guilder said.
Rocha said the cost, which would add up to roughly $1,500 per year, assuming the average meeting lasts two hours, is worth it.
"To me, that seems like a good investment for transparency," Rocha said.
Rocha also floated the possibility of finding a student intern from CSU Stanislaus, able to operate the videography equipment at no cost. He said that could potentially allow for Turlock Planning Commission meetings to be broadcast as well; that group's meetings, held at 6 p.m. on the first Thursday of each month, also go unrecorded.
Van Guilder is expected to return with more information on broadcasting the PARC meetings next month. An update is expected from the TID Board of Directors in the coming weeks.