In its February 28th meeting, the North Ogden City Council approved a resolution in an effort to tighten controls on news paper reporter's access to either a city employee, or to an elected official. The new policy rule is that a phone call from any news media would not be answered directly, but would be answered only in written form - if the city official felt so inclined.
It has always been the prerogative of a government official not to answer a question if he is not so inclined - and often a news reporter's questions have gotten the no comment reply. This is common where the official feels that the information may not be used to benefit the official, or the government entity. But the new policy now states that a question asked by a reporter can be answered only after submitting the question in writing first to the "City PIO" (City Public Information Officer) who is designated in North Ogden as a hired employee titled the "City Manager", or if the city manager is not available he can designate one of ten other people to be acting PIO.
The PIO is required to keep a log of the media calls - and if he so determines that the city 's goals are best achieved by having someone with "more background" answer the question, he may appoint one of the "authorized spokespersons" to assist with, or give the City's response. The requirement for the PIO is that no response will be issued until after the PIO has informed all elected officials of both the request and also of the response. Where there is a question as to the legality of a response, the PIO is to get an opinion from the city attorney before releasing the response.
Under section VII of this new rule (City Initiated Information), there is a question as to whether a city councilman would be authorized to make contact with a news reporter, or editor, without going through the City PIO.
Where the questions involve public safety, the police will designate a "Police PIO", who will operate under different rules.
The question arose as to whether the mayor or city council members may give live interviews - and the decision was that it could be done only where the TV or Radio would make a recording that was public domain. News paper reporters typically would not have that facility.
There are reports that other cities in the area are also moving to adopt similar rules.