BISMARCK, N.D. – In what Richard Betting, of People to Save the Sheyenne, calls a blow to government transparency in North Dakota, the State Water Commission will no longer allow citizens to call in and listen to SWC meetings.
David Laschkewitsch, director of administrative services for the SWC, said Friday that there are several reasons for the move, mainly that the commission’s phone technology is not conducive to the process.
“We have no interest in hiding anything,” he said. “That is not our desire: to make it more difficult.”
When calling into the meetings, callers are asked to mute their phone.
Not all phones are mutable, and Laschkewitsch said background noise of the callers has been a problem during several meetings.
SWC meeting are open to the public, but Valley City City Commissioner Madeline Luke said Thursday that not everyone in the state can make the trip to Bismarck, and the SWC does have a substantial budget to invest into more modern technology.
Minutes of the SWC meetings are available to the public, but the commission does not have regularly scheduled meetings, and a prior meetings minutes have to be approved at the following meeting before they are published.
Laschkewitsch said that streaming the meetings from the SWC website would make the site vulnerable to hackers, but the Commission is looking into ways to make the meetings more available to the public.
“We are looking into it, and I know there’s ways of doing it... I’m sure it can be done and we’re taking a look at it.”