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Tape has no proof of alleged exchange

October 30, 2004|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

A videotape of a Tuesday night meeting in Hagerstown City Hall shows the final cordial minutes of what had been a heated discussion between city officials and a group of people in support of Washington County Hospital's proposed move.

The tape fades to black, and then cuts out. It did not record what happened just a few minutes later, which was an abrupt conversation between local businessman Edward Lough and Councilwoman Penny M. Nigh.

It was during that conversation, Lough recalled later this week, that Nigh pushed him. Nigh said she remembers trying to walk past him after a brief exchange, but doesn't remember if she made contact with him or not.

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Lough is the chairman of the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce and a co-founder of the Hagerstown-Washington County Community Healthcare Coalition. Lough and other coalition members met Tuesday with the council to discuss the hospital's proposed move, which the coalition supports.

There were four cameras aimed on the chamber floor Tuesday, but none of the video feeds was being recorded when the incident occurred, said city spokeswoman Karen Giffin and Eric Hastings, city TV productions and Web coordinator. The two reviewed the tape in the city's production room with a reporter on Friday.

Hastings said that unlike more expensive television production systems that can record multiple camera feeds and digitally store unlimited amounts of recordings, "we have tape," as he pointed to the VCR used to record Tuesday's meeting.

Because there are recording limitations, Giffin said, the city records only the portions of meetings between the official call to order and the adjournment, which is when council members pass a motion to adjourn.

There was extra space on the tape containing Tuesday's meeting with the coalition, but production staff followed general procedure and did not continue recording after the meeting adjourned, Giffin said.

"Once the formal proceedings are adjourned, they're done taping," Giffin said.

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