Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan on Tuesday criticized the D.C. Taxicab Commission’s policy banning recordings of its public meetings. The rules, which he called “not consistent with the philosophy of [Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s] administration or, in my view, good government or good common sense,” led to the arrests of two reporters at a commission hearing last week.
Pete Tucker of thefightback.org and Jim Epstein of Reason.tv were held by U.S. Park Police, at whose headquarters the meeting was held, on charges of disorderly conduct and “remaining.” Tucker’s arrest followed a dispute with the commission’s interim chairwoman, Dena C. Reed, and other staff over whether and how he was allowed to take photographs and record audio of the proceedings. Epstein was arrested after taking cell phone video of Tucker’s arrest.
Nathan, who is investigating the matter, said he will not pursue charges, but he said he has not heard evidence that Reed personally ordered the arrests. “She did ask for some order, and the Park Police came in,” he said. “One thing led to another, the Park Service made the arrests. ... We didn’t ask that they do that, and then it came to me, and I said we’re not going to prosecute these people.”
Nathan spoke highly of Reed, whom he called “a very good lawyer and a very good person.” But he was not so complimentary of the rules she was enforcing Wednesday, which predated her stint as chair.
“They are clearly not consistent with the philosophy of the administration or, in my view, good government or good common sense. If a matter is open and people can observe then ... the best record is a recording,” he said. “There’s no reason not to do it — unless it’s disruptive. You could see it could be if you were putting [a recorder] in my face or putting a camera in my face or doing things in a disruptive manner. To the extent that it’s not, we have to allow that to happen.”
That policy will “certainly will be communicated” with city agencies in the near future, he added.
Nathan said his investigation of the matter is not yet complete; he wants to have the two reporters tell him their side of the story. “I don’t think we can have a complete investigation until they do,” he said.