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Spokane City Council votes down cameras in City Hall break room

UPDATED: Mon., Jan. 28, 2019

Spokane City Hall (SR)
Spokane City Hall (SR)

The Spokane City Council unanimously voted to keep cameras out of the City Hall break room, which would have been used to monitor purchases at a new self-serve fresh food lunch counter.

The cameras would have been part of a new remodel of the city’s employee break room and the installation of a fresh food stand where employees could buy salads, sandwiches or snacks through an app. According to city documents, without cameras, the city will rely on the honor system to ensure employees are paying for their food. The cameras would not have monitored in real time, would have been pointed toward the food section of the room and would not have recorded audio.

City spokeswoman Marlene Feist said a similar lunch counter, including cameras, was used at the Spokane County Jail break room and was not intended to monitor employees.

“The cameras aren’t about filming people eating lunch,” she said. “They’re just pointed toward the purchase area.”

City Councilwoman Karen Stratton said a few employees she spoke with were not comfortable with the idea of cameras surveilling their break space. She had discussed the issue with the two unions that represent most city employees, and their representatives did not object to the cameras as long as no audio was recorded, they were only pointed at the purchasing area and signs informing employees they were being monitored were clearly posted.

City Council President Ben Stuckart said the council could revisit using cameras if it noticed people were taking food without paying. But the city should trust employees instead of monitoring them. He also said he opposed the camera system throughout City Hall.

“The cameras everywhere watching us everywhere we go is not a great team environment,” he said.

Councilman Breean Beggs said cameras weren’t unreasonable, but understood if employees found it jarring and preferred to be in an unmonitored space. He said the council could revisit the issue if there was food theft, but the lunch program could likely go forward without cameras.

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