3-27-2003 Cable Compliance Committee Minutes

Thursday, March 27, 2003
6:30 p.m.
Reno City Hall
Council Chambers


Present: Andrew Barbano (Chairperson), Karol Gorman, vice-chair, Peter Padilla, Barbara Stone, Noel Thornsberry

Absent: Kate Marshall


The meeting was called to order at 6:49 p.m. with a quorum of five members present.


Moved by Padilla, seconded by Stone to accept the minutes of the previous meeting. Passed 5-0.

3. Discussion and review of the open meeting law relating to CCCC subcommittees and e-mails.

Deputy City Attorney Michael Halley presented an overview of the Nevada open meeting law. He noted that the courts have construed the law liberally. He noted the definition of action leading to a decision in Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS) 241.015. He stated that the controlling law is currently the statute as revised by the Nevada Legislature in 2001. The recent Nevada Supreme Court decision (which found legal the City of Reno's serial meetings at below-quorum strength), is irrelevant since it applied to the law as it stood prior to the legislature's 2001 revision. He thus warned that groups of two CCCC members in a series of meetings could constitute a quorum, but the deciding factor lies in whether or not there is intent to break the law.

Mr. Thornsberry asked if the controlling fact is "the number of warm bodies present."

Mr. Halley responded that "you have to have some type of deliberation toward a decision." In response to a followup by Mr. Thornsberry, Mr. Halley noted that CCCC subcommittee meetings are probably not violative of the law. "The last requirement is if a series of gatherings are held with the specific intent to avoid the provisions of the chapter of law."

Chairman Barbano asked if a meeting between committee members and Charter Cable's Marsha Berkbigler should go through the public notice process.

"Probably not," Mr. Halley responded. However, if four members of the CCCC attended, he recommended following the open meeting law notice procedure and have city staff post timely notices.

He added that social functions are not violative. He noted that obtaining a consensus by electronic means such as phone, fax or e-mail would violate the law. The controlling case involves the University and Community College System of Nevada (UCCSN) Board of Regents and their fax-poll to obtain consensus on the censure of board member.

Ms. Stone asked for clarification of Mr. Halley's e-mail example.He noted that if it involves asking for a determination on an item, it could be considered a violation; adding that the legislature said that a specific intent to violate the law needs to be present.

Mr. Padilla asked about circulating information via e-mail to board members. e.g., news of the activities of similar consumer panels elsewhere. Mr. Halley responded that "FYI" dissemination which does not ask for feedback or deliberation is permissable.

Deputy City Attorney Jonathan Shipman cautioned that e-mail exchanges could become a discussion group (a conversation could continue even after a participant has signed off) and evolve into "a decision-making thread."

He suggested sending e-mails only to staff for future dissemination to the CCCC.
Mr. Barbano remarked that "that makes us mushrooms" and that the key is the UCCSN decision.

Mr. Thornsberry asked if any closed meetings or executive sessions are permissable. Mr. Halley responded that the only exception lies in consultation with legal counsel.


a. City Council Resolution 6077
b. Unofficial city website
c. Legislative lobbying
d. Committee member conduct
e. Handling complaint process
f. Media contacts

City of Reno Community Relations Director Steven Wright stated that the crux of City Council Resolution No. 6077 (which created the CCCC) is that the committee acts in an advisory capacity to the council and to assist staff when appropriate in monitoring compliance (with the franchise agreement).

"What do you see as our job, verbatim from you," Ms. Stone asked Mr. Wright.
He responded that under 6077, if the city has complaints in can't resolve, he will bring them to the committee.

Ms. Gorman asked him to interpret section 3D of 6077 which empowers the CCCC to consider unresolved complaints, specifically with regard to complaints submitted to CCCC members. Mr. Wright responded that they should be referred to city staff.

Ms. Stone noted that "it was my understanding that we were to take complaints. Nobody said anything about you taking over. How did we evolve into this?"

Mr. Wright reiterated that the committee's role is advisory but also noted the unresolved complaint language in section 3D.

Mr. Barbano asked if the CCCC is thus a court of appeals.

"I don't know if I'd say that," Wright stated, "we (the City) are the franchising authority. It's our responsibility to investigate."

Ms. Stone asked why the CCCC was not so apprised by staff at its first meeting.

"Why are we here if we have no authority to do anything if we only take complaints to talk to you, to talk to each other. Why are we here?"

Mr. Padilla asked how many times in the next 12 months will this committee be needed to resolve unresolved complaints from staff. Mr. Wright could not provide numbers.

"So you've been resolving complaints and not informing the committee," Mr. Barbano asked. "That's the status quo ante. Proper records were not kept for years. You don't have benchmarks to respond to Mr. Padilla's question."

Mr. Wright stated that "we have a procedure in place. We are establishing a citizens service center for various city issues include cable, online in June."

Mr. Padilla asked if the CCCC will get a list of complainants in order to perform followups.

Mr. Wright stated that might be possible pending legal advice. Mr. Shipman noted that he saw no problem therewith.

Mr. Thornsberry noted that he didn't sign on to micromanage city staff. "I'd prefer to look for patterns."

Ms. Gorman referred to the January 15 CCCC meeting minutes noting the establishment of subcommittees. "If part of our function was not to review and mediate complaints, why did staff allow us to create subcommittees?"

Mr. Wright stated that "we're trying to clarify." He added that he was new to city staff at that time. He said he had no idea that the CCCC would be taking complaints. Mr. Barbano noted that it was explicitly stated at the January meeting.

Ms. Gorman asked can a customer call the city regarding installation and other issues? How many citizens are aware they can call staff per the current franchise agreement which calls for the franchisee (Charter) to notify customers that they can contact the city.

The chair recognized Charter Governmental Relations Director Marsha Berkbigler. She stated that a notice was included annually with December billings. She noted that City Public Information Officer Sharon Spangler's phone number is printed on every bill.

Mr. Barbano stated that there appears to be a fundamental disagreement between the CCCC and staff as to the role of the CCCC. He noted that Mr. Wright had unilaterally changed the committee's charge from the city council.

"Our job is not just to advise but to monitor compliance, hence the name of this committee...You have unilaterally implemented a new complaint structure after the publication of the Sepe Report (City of Reno Cable Television Community Needs Report) without informing the committee. The reason this committee was formed was complaints from ratepayers to council. I applaud your efforts to turn this around. The process of satisfying complaints was not well handled before. Our charge says we need to inextricably involved in that process, not only to advise and consent but to monitor on an ongoing basis...not micromanaging, but macromanaging. You have changed the charge of this committee without consulting or informing us. There is a serious problem with a deregulated monopoly."

Mr. Wright responded that "I've shared with you procedures in place with this and other governments."

Mr. Padilla noted that the CCCC was established to be an unbiased body. "The reason for establishing the committee was complaint resolution. Subscribers need an impartial arbiter, someone without a monetary interest in revenues. It's a disservice to the community to have a committee be shackled getting only what the city believes is an unresolved complaint. The only way we can be effective is to talk to those subscribers directly...The cable company makes a profit from every subscriber and the city makes a profit from every subscriber. At some point, the subscriber needs to have somebody that does not have an interest in the revenues that are being generated."

Mr. Wright said he'd be happy to provide summary reports. Mr. Barbano asked if they could be submitted weekly.

Mr. Barbano noted that the reason for the resignation of the chair of the complaint committee, Jackie Inman, lay with Charter's stonewalling her efforts. He added that some disclosure could jeopardize workers' jobs. He asserted that staff efforts constituted an attempt to make it seem as thought there is peace in the family.

Mr. Wright noted that Mr. Barbano is entitled to his opinion. Mr. Barbano responded that he was not giving his opinion, but facts.

Ms. Berkbigler left the meeting, followed by Mr. Thornsberry.

Ms. Stone asked if these issues can be agendized at a city council meeting. She noted that it seems the committee exists "to serve at your (city staff) pleasure."

Mr. Wright apologized for any misunderstanding and reiterated that his intent is to "clarify certain aspects" of the CCCC role.

Ms. Gorman noted that Resolution 6077 has very distinct language and saw no need to return to the council for advice.

Mr. Barbano noted that citizens expect the city to act and not argue over the meaning of words. Mr. Wright deferred to City of Reno Chief of Staff Leann McElroy.

Ms. McElroy stated that "the city absolutely expects you to handle unresolved complaints, not do intake." She added that the city needs to keep better records and that the CCCC will get regular reports.

Mr. Barbano noted that Charter's internal handling of complaints has thus far not proven satisfactory.

Ms. Stone asked how the CCCC could obtain information of the committee meets only monthly.

Mr. Barbano suggested taking a cue from Mayor Cashell and ask for weekly reports by e-mail. Ms. McElroy stated that that a weekly report to the CCCC complaint subcommittee is feasible.

Ms. Stone noted Charter's poor responses to complaints from senior citizens. Mr. Barbano reiterated that such inconsistency could be addressed by Charter's response to Mr. Thornsberry's January request for rates and policies.

Ms. McElroy noted that the documents Ms. Berkbigler had promised to bring to the meeting would be obtained for the committee by staff given that Ms. Berkbigler had departed the meeting.

Mr. Padilla asked if there is a requirement that Charter have a representative at all meetings. Mr. Wright said no.

Mr. Shipman expressed concern that Mr. Barbano's unofficial website, http://www.DecidingFactors.tv, was not authorized by the council. Mr. Wright added that Mr. Barbano's e-mail correspondence in which he notes his position on the committee could also be misconstrued as official city communication. Mr. Barbano asked if the city would write an acceptable disclaimer. Mr. Shipman recommended that the website be abolished. He also noted that legislative lobbying is not within the purview of the committee. Mr. Barbano noted that he and Ms. Stone disclaimed their legislative testimony as not representing the position of the city.

Ms. Stone noted that "everything we do, you're (city staff) trying to strangle us and I'm not sure why. You're playing games." Mr. Shipman responded that staff is trying to keep members from breaking the open meeting law and exceeding their responsibilities.

Mr. Barbano noted that Dr. Sepe's report was the driving force behind the need for Senate Bill 278. Problems exist which can only be addressed by legislation.

"If our charge is to see Charter complies with the franchise, if legislation is needed it needs to be sought. We could have discussed this at our February meeting which you (city staff) canceled," he stated.

Mr. Shipman stated that "I don't fault you." Mr. Barbano added that this seems a moot point as the council has formally endorsed SB 278. Mr. Wright stated that the city has a lobbying staff to handle such matters which must follow established council procedures.

Mr. Barbano noted that he distributed a draft agenda for the February meeting which included legislative activity. He asked whether or not that draft was forwarded to the lobbying staff. Was the staff going to pursue such legislation anyway? Mr. Shipman said that staff saw the SB 278 bill draft request and informed council.

Mr. Padilla asked that agenda items 4d and 4f be discussed but Mr. Wright refused. Mr. Padilla asked who sets agendas. Mr. Wright stated that any member can agendize an item.

Mr. Barbano noted that he wanted the other committee officers to attend a meeting requested by Mr. Wright but did not attend when Mr. Wright opposed the attendance of the other members. Mr. Barbano added that he felt that the issues should be addressed in the public forum of the meeting at hand. Mr. Wright did not respond.

Ms. Stone said "you're trying to strangle us because Mr. Barbano can do some things you can't." Mr. Wright said that was not his intent. Many issues were specific to Mr. Barbano's conduct, so the staff agendized him. Ms. Stone asked why he would not meet with all three committee officers. Mr. Wright responded that the issues to be discussed were specific to Mr. Barbano. Mr. Padilla noted that the agenda of the meeting at hand was formed by the city and that the committee was thus working on the city's agenda.

Mr. Wright expressed concern as to the tone and where matters are heading which make him hesitant to address the agenda items regarding Mr. Barbano. He reiterated the need for advice from the council. He added that staff would provide copies of pertinent policies at another time. Mr. Barbano noted he would look forward to seeing them. Mr. Wright added that the committee also needs to understand city media contact policy. Mr. Barbano noted that with respect to himself and Mr. Padilla, "we is the media."

5. Discussion of Assembly Bill 298 — Prohibits state and local governments from paying for certain publications, advertisements and television programming that are reasonably likely to affect outcome of election.

Nicole Lamboley, lobbyist for the city, noted that the bill was introduced in response to expenditure of public funds in support of a tax advisory by the Regional Transportation Commission of Clark County. She added that a companion bill has been introduced in the state senate.

6. Discussion of Senate Bill 278 — Revises provisions relating to powers of certain local government entities to provide services of community antenna television.

Mr. Barbano explained the need for the bill as a fallback for the city should Charter's ongoing financial problems impair the delivery of service or cause them to default on their franchise requirements. Ms. Gorman noted that the bill would merely restore provisions of the existing franchise (dated September, 1981), which had been circumvented by legislation pushed by the cable industry in 1997. Mr. Barbano noted that some amendments were in the offing. Ms. Lamboley noted that the council had only endorsed the original language of the bill and had not acted on amendments. Mr. Barbano noted again that the issue had been agendized for the CCCC February meeting, but staff canceled the session.

7. Subcommittee status reports

      a. Complaint Committee — Mr. Barbano noted the resignation of Ms. Inman despite entreaties asking her to rescind. He asked the appointment of a new complaint chair be agendized for the next meeting. He noted that he had handled three complaints since Ms. Inman's departure, two forwarded by Councilmember Sferrazza. He emphasized that prompt response was appreciated by the ratepayers.
     b. Charter Operations Committee — Ms. Gorman noted that the committee had met to identify issues and that Mr. Thornsberry noted the need for a meeting with Charter. Mr. Wright noted that such a meeting is in the works. Mr. Padilla asked about another tour of the Media Center (Sierra Nevada Community Access Television). Mr. Wright recommended contacting SNCAT directly.
     c. Communications Committee — Mr. Barbano noted that the committee was originally charged with outreach to consumer groups and other entities such as the CCCC both inside and outside Nevada. The committee could have also worked on legislation, but SB 278 came up to quickly.

8. Discussion of resignation of Mrs. Inman from CCCC.

Mr. Padilla asserted that this item had already been covered. Mr. Barbano agreed.

9. Discussion of old business

     a. Report from Jonathan Shipman on whether public comment can lead to interactive discussion with the CCCC. Mr. Shipman noted that such communication must be one way, as the CCCC could not take action on issues not appearing on the posted agenda. Mr. Barbano noted that members must be free to ask questions and that the last thing consumers need to hear is that they must wait a month for their complaint to be agendized. Mr. Shipman noted that a complaint could be referred to the subcommittee. Mr. Barbano then requested that unresolved complaints be made a permanent agenda item.

     b. Report from City of Reno Public Information Officer Sharon Spangler on alternative CCCC meeting dates for the months of November and December and re-airing of CCCC meetings on SNCAT Channel 13. Ms. Spangler presented options. Gorman moved, seconded by Padilla, to hold the November and December meetings on the third Tuesday of each month (Nov. 18 and Dec. 16). Passed 4-0. Mr. Barbano further advised Ms. Spangler to inform SNCAT schedulers to use their best judgment as to rebroacast times for CCCC meetings, with a focus on having the meeting reach the widest possible audience.

     c. Report from Charter Communications Government Affairs Director Marsha Berkbigler on the number of customer service representatives available per shift; Charter's rebate credit policy; overview of information kept by Charter regarding customer service matters and Charter's adherence to the seven-day turnaround requirement for picking up digital cable boxes from a customer who has requested termination of service. Ms. Berkbigler was not present to deliver her report. Mr. Barbano apologized if his comments had made her uncomfortable. Mr. Wright noted she had the information requested and that he would contact her for it. Ms. Stone asked that it been disseminated to committee members. Mr. Wright said he would do so immediately upon receipt.

     d. Report from City of Reno Community Relations Director Steven Wright on proposals and processes that he intended to put in place to deal with complaints received about Charter's service. Mr. Wright noted that he had earlier covered the main components of the city's new citizens service center. He noted that a procedure is in place which will be enhanced over time. The new system will provide tracking data. Mr. Barbano asked if the complaint policy had been reduced to writing. Mr. Wright responded that it was in the process of implementation. A separate task force within the city is working on it. He distributed a sample procedure form. He added that the franchise renegotiation process would further refine the complaint procedure.

10. Identification of agenda items for the next meeting of the CCCC.

Mr. Wright noted that agenda item 10 acts in the stead of a "new business" item.

Mr. Barbano asked that the subject of live call-in participation be agendized for the next meeting. Ms. Gorman endorsed the idea, adding that the CCCC needs as much public input as possible. Padilla moved and Stone seconded a motion to agendize live call-ins. Mr. Wright noted that staff would prepare a recommendation and guidelines. Motion passed 4-0. Mr. Barbano asked Mr. Wright to expedite advice from council on the issue. Mr. Wright said he would follow up.

Mr. Barbano asked that the next meeting agendize appointment of a complaint subcommittee chair. He also asked that consumer complaints be permanently agendized. Mr. Wright noted that the committee needs to agendize receipt of Charter's annual compliance report and Ms. Berkbigler's rebuttal to Dr. Sepe's findings.

Mr. Barbano noted that the CCCC should have been in receipt of Ms. Berkbigler's rebuttal months ago.

The chair then returned to agenda item 6 and recommended that the committee support the council's endorsement of SB 278. So moved by Stone, seconded by Padilla. Passed 4-0.

11. Public Comment.

No public comment was presented when the opportunity was offered.

12. Adjournment.

Moved by Padilla, seconded by Stone. Passed 4-0. Meeting gaveled to a close at approximately 8:44 p.m. PST.

Respectfully submitted,

Andrew L. Barbano, Chair
Acting Recording Secretary

Minutes of previous meeting (1-15-2003)

Scope of CCCC Authority Under Current Law

Resolution establishing the Citizens Cable Compliance Committee

CCCC Bylaws

PLEASE NOTE: This unofficial website represents the official views of neither
the City of Reno nor its Citizens Cable Compliance Committee.



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