The much-anticipated second hearing into the school bus contract dispute scheduled for next month can be videotaped, according to officials at the Board of Labor Relations.
In December, board members directed three people who were videotaping the first hearing to turn off their cameras, saying it was not allowed, citing privacy concerns and adding that an audio of the session would be transcribed and be available later for purchase.
However, Freedom of Information laws allow for video taping of public hearings with some exceptions, such as the filming of Superior Court cases, which require the permission of the judge. The labor relations hearing is not among one of those exceptions, which Alexandra Gross, assistant general counsel for the board, confirmed last week.
The Newtown Owner-Operators filed a complaint with the board last year citing a violation of their rights. During the first hearing in December, about two dozen people sat in the audience observing the proceedings. While two reporters from the Newtown Bee and Newtown Patch and a third member of the audience turned on their videocameras to , board members later halted the proceedings and requested that the videos be turned off for the rest of the hearing.
Gross said that at the next hearing, anyone who wishes to videotape the proceedings will be allowed to do so without restriction.
"Film away," she said.
The hearings are to determine whether the Newtown school bus owner-operators are employees of the district, rather than independent contractors as language in their contracts identifies them. The owner-operators are arguing that they are employees and their collective bargaining rights were violated when the that begins in fall 2012 to All-Star Transportation.
The case is being closely watched by the owner-operators who will lose their livelihood if the All-Star contract proceeds as well as supporters of the decades-long tradition of having town residents own and operate the school district's bus system who see the labor dispute as the only chance of preserving the beloved system.
While the Board of Education has said provisions have been made in the All-Star contract should the owner-operators be deemed employees, a lawyer for the owner-operators argued that
The next hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m, March 7, 2012 in Wethersfield.