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July 4, 2013

Video, Story: Woman considers legal action after tablet taken

NEW CASTLE — A Pulaski Township woman is considering legal action after a policeman confiscated her computer tablet during a township meeting.

Suzanne Matteo of New Bedford-Sharon Road, said she was attending a Pulaski Township supervisors meeting Monday and video-recording it on her iPad when police officer Randall Courson asked her if she was recording. She said she asked him if recording was forbidden and offered to delete what she had recorded. But Courson ignored her offer and confiscated her tablet.

Matteo said that just prior to the confiscation, the three supervisors had been whispering among themselves, then called Courson over and said something to him.

Matteo said she later spoke with Courson outside the building, asking him to return the tablet. Several other residents attending the meeting objected to the policeman’s action. One man recorded part of the verbal exchange between Matteo and the officer on a cell phone. You can view the video below:

Matteo said she believed she had the right to record the meeting and that Courson was wrong to take her computer tablet, but backed off when Courson threatened to arrest her. “I have two small children at home,” she said. “I couldn’t go to jail.”

Sam Varano, supervisor chairman, said Tuesday that the supervisors are not commenting on the incident. He said they will discuss it with Richard Harper, the township’s solicitor.

Although he was not present when the incident occurred, Harper said Tuesday, “There is no question that a citizen has a right to record a meeting.” He added he had not yet discussed the matter with Courson or the supervisors.

Attempts to reach Courson Wednesday for comment were unsuccessful.

Matteo said Pulaski Township police officer Chad Adams returned the computer to her lawyer Tuesday.

She said she is now concerned about the privacy of the information on her tablet because it was not password protected and she does not know if anyone has viewed it.

Matteo said she had files about each township supervisor on the tablet, “for their possible conflicts of interest.”

She had been attending meetings since fall concerning township action on gas well drilling on local property. A photographer by profession, Matteo said she has become convinced there is danger in hydraulic fracturing and has tried to learn as much as she can about its local impacts.

Matteo made statements at a public hearing Tuesday on a permit for expansion of the number of wells on a township farm, accusing all three supervisors of having a conflict of interest in the matter.

 

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