City & County

Livestream ordinance advances in quorum court

By JOEL PHELPS | The Arkadelphian

An ordinance that would require Clark County Quorum Court meetings to be live-streamed will get the second of its three required readings.

Proposed by newly elected Justice Michael Ankton (D-District 2), discussion about the ordinance lasted about 20 minutes as Ankton fielded questions from fellow justices. 

Ankton’s proposal set a tight deadline for the 11-member panel to agree on the details of who would man the camera and how much it would the service would cost. The ordinance calls for the livestream service to be operating by the April meeting of the quorum court, which meets once a month. The ordinance requires three readings before it’s adopted, and any amendments would kick the process back to square one unless justices agree to suspend Robert’s Rules of Order.

“Just providing the service so [citizens] can see what’s going on is better than nothing at all.”

— Michael Ankton, Clark County justice of the peace

Ankton began his argument by noting that it’s 2023 — time for Clark County to join the masses and post to the Internet, time to get people more involved in county government. Saying his campaign centered around transparency, Ankton said he would be “remiss if I didn’t try” to make public meetings more accessible.

With the ordinance read to the court, Justice B.J. Johns (R-District 8) asked Ankton if he’d checked with other counties to iron out the details and inquire of potential issues. Ankton replied that the Arkadelphia Board of Directors uses media students from Ouachita Baptist University to stream city board meetings, adding that Clark County is in a “healthy spot” financially to find someone to provide the same service for the county. “If we can’t provide it, then we won’t,” Ankton said, pointing out that his ordinance includes a clause spelling out that the service would discontinue if an “unforeseen circumstance” prevents it, or if the court chooses to suspend or discontinue it.

Johns wanted to know if there would be a place where viewers could comment, such as on platforms like Facebook Live. Ankton said that, while Facebook Live is a potential, his vision was to stream the video, perhaps, on the county’s new website. “Just providing the service so [citizens] can see what’s going on is better than nothing at all,” Ankton said.

Justice Vanilla Hannah (D-District 3) asked who would be responsible for operating the service. Ankton replied that the ordinance only held the court accountable for “trying to find someone.” He said he’d spoken with some interested parties, but did not name them.

Justice Jimmy King (R-District 5) asked Ankton if he’d priced any equipment. Ankton said the court would first discuss what level of professionalism they envisioned for the product before investing in video equipment.

Speaking to county attorney Todd Turner, King took issue with live-streaming on Facebook because the recording would have to be archived in keeping with the state’s Freedom of Information Act laws. Turner agreed that any recordings directed by the court would have to be held as public record.

After some back-and-forth discussion on the deadline spelled out in the ordinance, there was a motion and second to place the ordinance on its second reading at the March meeting. Johns, however, had more questions. “At what point do we find out who will do this or what the cost will be?” he asked, hypothesizing a $100,000 price tag. Ankton said the court would be informed on the details prior to its April meeting, and added that if the cost was prohibitive the court could opt against the service at its discretion.

Johns also wanted to know which justice would be in charge of ironing out the details. Ankton did not have a clear answer. Justice Mark Overturf (R-District 6) noted that justices could perform their own individual research and return in March with their findings and suggestions.

A vote to place the ordinance on a second reading at the next meeting passed 8-3, with dissenting votes from Johns, King and Albert Neal. Johns said in casting his vote that he didn’t have enough information to support it.

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1 reply »

  1. I’m happy that Michael Ankton is trying to get stuff done around here for once. When I ran for Justice of the Peace against BJ Johns, two of my big issues were getting a new county website and livestreaming meetings to the public. So it goes without saying that I think it’s great that we have a new website. I’ve been out of the loop for the past few months and decided to check it out, and it’s very good. I’m quite disappointed with my JP’s vote on the livestream ordinance, and if I had been elected, I would’ve voted yes.