City leaders debate use of cameras

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By Andrea Cordle
Southwest Editor

Grove City Council and the city administration debated the use of privately owned security cameras on city property. The discussion occurred at a recent council meeting after resident Bill Ferguson brought the issue to light.

According to Law Director Stephen Smith, the city was approached by Sound Communication to place several cameras around City Hall as part of a company test program. There was no money involved, but the city and company had a one-year agreement.

Sound Communication is located on Park Street, across from City Hall.

Smith said after the contract period, the cameras were not removed. They were still active.
Ferguson, a local resident, said he believes the administration violated the city charter. He said council should have been notified of the agreement and they should have voted on a renewal after the one-year contract expired.

“This is about protecting the rights of the people,” said Ferguson.

Smith said this was not a violation of city code.

The cameras were placed on the City Hall building in 2009, under the direction of then city administrator Phil Honsey. When the current city administrator Chuck Boso noticed the cameras, he asked they be reviewed.

The cameras have since been taken down.

Todd Hurley, director of information systems in the city, said one of Sound Communication’s cameras were pointed at the intersection in front of City Hall, one looked at the parking lot and the other pointed west. He said the company had access to the footage, as did the Grove City Division of Police.

Hurley said the company’s main goal of installing the cameras on City Hall was to test a product and market that security product to other businesses and municipalities.

Council president Ted Berry said he does not have a problem with the city using its own system for public safety purposes.

“What I do have a problem with is a private entity recording citizens on city property,” said Berry.

Berry said his concern was that people, other than the city’s police force, had access to the images recorded. Berry asked for a copy of the original contract and said council had to
collect more information on the matter.

According to Hurley, the city operates more than 100 security cameras.

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