When concerned citizens and the media asked why Hoover City Council meeting videos were deleted from the Council's YouTube page in 2022 without notice, they were met with finger-pointing, denials and excuses. Thanks to a local businessman, the videos have since been restored to a separate YouTube channel.

The Hoover Channel not only found and restored the missing videos, but its founders, Robin Schultz and his grandson Jackson Schultz, have also taken it upon themselves to record meetings not previously available, including work sessions and the public comment portions of the regular meetings, which the city no longer streams. The Hoover Channel YouTube Page posted its 200th video this past Saturday.

During the initial debate over the deletion of videos and a new policy that would continue the practice. Michael Umlauf, a Hoover resident, spoke to Birmingham's ABC 33/40, saying, “I believe it’s a transparency issue."

“If we want to go back and see what we said in a council meeting, we should have the right to take notes and go back let's say six months later.”

Umlauf said the council needs to look at the best interest of the people living in Hoover.

“The policy they put protects their interest, not the people of Hoover," said Umlauf.

Over the past two years, the Hoover Sun has reported on the changes and the responses to them on several occasions. 

In one story, they describe the finger-pointing that occurred when he sought answers about how the initial deletions happened.

“Hoover Mayor Frank Brocato said the change was made at the direction of the council and directed questions to Council President John Lyda. Lyda said he didn’t know who made the initial decision. Council members Steve McClinton, Mike Shaw, Sam Swiney and Casey Middlebrooks said they were not informed before videos were first removed nor consulted before those changes were made.”

Jason Cope, the city’s technology director, directed questions to the city’s public information officer, who obtained a response from City Attorney Phillip Corley.

Corley asked that questions be submitted in writing and, when asked who made the initial decision to take down YouTube videos, said, “This was a council policy communicated by the council president to the city clerk. … The policy was communicated to the city clerk on Sept. 6, 2022.”

However, videos from the past five years were taken down before August 1. Corley did not respond to further questions about who made the initial decision.

After a contentious debate on the issue, with one side wanting full transparency and one side approving of the changes, John Lyda responded, “My goal was to draft a policy that no one loves but everyone can live with.” 

Under the new policy, videos of council action meetings stay online for 60 days or until after those minutes are approved, whichever occurs later.

The Hoover Channel, with its associated website, Facebook and YouTube channels, launched in January 2023.

In an interview, Schultz, the founder, told The Hoover Sun that he believed the videos serve “an important role to document history and to help hold city officials accountable for things they have said and done.”

“Transparency is really what it boils down to,” said Schultz, who unsuccessfully ran for Hoover City Council in 2016 and 2020.”

The changes in Hoover’s policies contradict recent efforts to increase transparency throughout government in Alabama.

Governor Kay Ivey issued an executive order in 2023 and just last week signed a bill that overwhelmingly passed the state legislature during the 2024 session.

In signing the bill, Ivey said, “Transparency isn’t just a buzzword — it’s a commitment to letting the sunlight in and ensuring our citizens can hold their government accountable.”

Apryl Marie Fogel is a Birmingham resident who frequently appears on and guest hosts radio programs around the state. She can be reached at aprylmarie@altoday.com or on X and Facebook at @aprylmarie.

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Editor's Note: This story was updated to include Jackson Schultz as one of the founders of The Hoover Channel