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Judge orders Green Bay City Hall audio recording devices be temporarily turned off

Surveillance hearing.jpeg
Posted at 4:20 PM, Mar 02, 2023

GREEN BAY (NBC 26) — A decision has been made in Brown County Circuit Court on whether audio surveillance can continue in Green Bay City Hall.

Judge Marc Hammer approved a temporary restraining order against City Hall's audio surveillance system.

Hammer ordered that the audio recording devices be turned off.

Hammer also ordered that any existing recordings temporarily be sealed, but not destroyed.

During the hearing, he asked a series of questions concerning the legality of the audio, and why the recordings weren't reported sooner.

The microphones are located in the hallways on City Hall's first and second floors.

Hammer said that people should have a right to a private conversation inside City Hall.

But he also expressed concern about the timing of the issue being politically-motivated.

"I'm concerned that there was some type of underhandedness or strategy in waiting until after the city primary and before the city election to dirty up the mayor, and that's unfortunate," Hammer said.

The city's chief of operations, Joseph Faulds, said during a parks committee meeting Wednesday night that microphones were installed in December 2021 and July last year due to safety concerns.

In a brief received from the defendants, it said City Hall has three audio recording devices.

Two of them were installed on the second floor outside the mayor's office and council chambers.

The other was installed on the first floor outside the clerk's office.

Hammer went on to say that if someone is causing trouble at City Hall, the police should be called.

"The police are, I don't know, less than a thousand yards away from City Hall?," Hammer said. "If there's a disturbance just like anybody else would do — someone's bothering you, if it's upsetting — you call the police. You don't necessarily pre-record what people are saying and the anticipation that maybe it can be used later in some type of city or criminal proceeding."

The city posted signage a couple weeks ago alerting people they were being recorded.