Aztec discontinues audio surveillance

Hannah Grover

AZTEC — Aztec will be disabling the audio on city surveillance systems following a City Commission workshop Tuesday evening at City Hall, City Manager Josh Ray announced.

Currently, five city buildings are outfitted with surveillance systems, and three of the five have the ability to record audio.

Commissioner Katee McClure spoke to Ray in June about her concerns regarding the audio recording at City Hall. That prompted Ray to consult City Attorney Larry Thrower about rights to privacy.

“If I know somebody’s hearing my conversations, there may be things I don’t say,” McClure said.

McClure’s concerns came from the fact that City Hall was outfitted with cameras with microphones and did not have a sign saying audio could be recorded.

While the surveillance system at City Hall has the ability to record audio, it already had been disabled.

However, the systems at the Motor Vehicle Division and the utilities office record audio, and Utilities Director Delain George said that audio has been useful when it comes to dealing with customer complaints.

But the city attorney said those recordings can be problematic.

“I think my advice is stay completely away from audio,” Thrower told commissioners after giving them a packet detailing case law and the fourth amendment, which addresses searches and seizures.

He said an exception to that would be police or public safety.

“The fact that it’s useful doesn’t change the law,” Thrower said. “The fact that it’s handy to have doesn’t change the law.”

Hannah Grover covers Aztec and Bloomfield, as well as general news, for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.