In a letter to the Editor which appeared on April 8, Hoboken First Ward Councilwoman Terry Castellano made erroneous comments in regards to me and my attempt to lawfully videotape an open public meeting.
I would like to take this opportunity to address those comments. Councilwoman Castellano commented that the electrical cord which I used for my camera presented a "hazard to someone who might trip and fall" and thus was one of the reasons why I was removed from the City Council Chamber. This is absolutely untrue. In fact, prior to the meeting I was accommodated very cordially by the city clerk along with one council member, who directed me to use an outlet in the front of the room. As I am a professional videographer by trade, the extension cord I used was taped safely to the floor to prevent tripping. I informed the city clerk that I was a freelance journalist and informed him that I was taping the budget meeting for the benefit of the public to be aired on their local public access channel. There seemed to be no problem, and in fact, I held friendly conversations with at least four administration individuals and one council member.
Minutes before the meeting began, however, hospitality turned to hostility when council members and administration personnel realized I was a friend of activist Phyllis Spinelli. I was told at that time to remove my camera from the outlet, which I did, and I then switched to battery power.
When told I would not be allowed to videotape the meeting at all, even on battery power, I respectfully addressed the City Council and informed them of my right to tape the public meeting under the Open Public Meetings Act. I was not "agitated and loud" as Councilwoman Castellano had stated, and the videotape of the incident attests to that fact.
Councilwoman Castellano then goes on to attempt to absolve Mayor Russo of any wrong doing. She states that "The Mayor had nothing to do with removing Mr. Chiappone from the meeting". In fact, part way through his State of the City Address, Mayor Russo directed the police to remove me from the council chamber. Does Councilwoman Castellano not know that this incident was taped as well as reported by two reporters from the local press? A simple archive search following that meeting date, in the Hoboken Reporter and the Jersey Journal, would corroborate the facts as I have stated.
It is interesting to note that Councilwoman Castellano conveniently chose to not inform the public of the important fact that after I was detained for over an hour in a Hoboken police holding cell, officials soon realized their mistake and were forced to not only release me but were obligated under the law to permit me to tape the rest of the council meeting.
As I am now an elected official representing the First Ward in the City of Bayonne I am disappointed that a fellow council member, in a city just minutes away from mine, would misrepresent the facts to her constituents in the manner which she has done. Did Councilwoman Castellano not think that her words would find their way to me and that I would not respond to correct her false statements? Councilwoman Castellano is wrong on many counts, but most importantly, these statements speak of her integrity in regard to defaming the reputation of a fellow elected official in order to remain within the good graces of the mayor.
First Ward Councilman Anthony Chiappone