- The Washington Times - Monday, August 14, 2000

MARDELA SPRINGS, Md. Commissioners of this town of 150 don't like it, but Henry Osowiecki will show up tomorrow to videotape their monthly meeting.

Maryland's attorney general has ruled the commissioners improperly ordered the archivist and real estate developer to turn off his video camera at the public meeting last month or be removed from the room.

Mr. Osowiecki will be ready if they try to kick him out again. "I'll have my attorney there," he said. "It's a public meeting."

Salisbury Mayor Barrie Tilghman said, "Henry has been taping the City Council here for several years… . He's always been very agreeable… . He's not a problem.

"The more sunlight we show on government, the better," said Mrs. Tilghman, who said she once suggested Mr. Osowiecki submit his tapes to cable television so more Salisbury residents could see the council in action.

At the July 18 meeting in Mardela Springs, Town Board President Wallace Catlin ordered Mr. Osowiecki to turn off his video camera. Mr. Osowiecki refused, saying it was an open, public meeting.

"I don't care if it's an open meeting. I don't like being photographed," Mr. Catlin is recorded as saying.

"Turn it off or get out. You're a nuisance to this council."

Later, Mr. Catlin refused to discuss the issue, saying, "You're not going to get much of a comment from me… . I have no real comment." Mr. Catlin did not return phone calls this week.

Mr. Osowiecki suggested the protest came because Mr. Catlin and another board member, Cathy Wanex, do not want it publicized that they are U.S. Posal Service employees. There are five board members, one for every 30 town residents.

Mr. Osowiecki said town officials have been obstructing his inquiries and requests lately, and he explained that he is now required to file a freedom of information request to get minutes of the town meetings.

Although he missed the May meeting, Mr. Osowiecki said the minutes show that the commissioners asked the town attorney to draw up a municipal regulation that would ban him from videotaping.

"You can't stop anybody from taping an open meeting. You can't have a Henry Osowiecki ordinance," he said.

Mr. Osowiecki has been videotaping local government meetings and some court sessions for about two years and has had no trouble from the Salisbury City Council and the Wicomico County Council.

He said he sets his camera on a tripod where it doesn't interfere. Mr. Osowiecki, who is most interested in keeping records of proceedings that pertain to his work in real estate development, saves the tapes.

"Some people just don't like being photographed," said Salisbury Special Projects Director Deborah Stam. "But, he does it, and nobody stops him."

His tapes have proved to be useful to some legislators. Mr. Osowiecki said two Wicomico council members once asked to see tapes of a meeting to review proceedings.

Jack Schwartz, assistant attorney general for Maryland, said the state's Open Meeting Compliance Board has a clear interpretation of the law that supports Mr. Osowiecki, as long as the photographer doesn't disrupt the meeting.

"They can limit it in order to avoid disturbing others, but a flat ban no," Mr. Schwartz said.

Mr. Osowiecki moved to Maryland in 1979. He and his wife live in the center of Mardela Springs in a house built in 1860, which he bought eight years ago. The couple have 10 children and 14 grandchildren.

A native of Connecticut, Mr. Osowiecki proudly points out that his home state is known as the "Constitution State" because its leaders were the first to adopt the U.S. Constitution.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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