Sunshine Week news roundup - Sunday March 15
Today kicks off the annual Sunshine Week program and media outlets across the state have stories highligting right to know issues. We'll put together a daily roundup this week. Today's stories include an Associated Press report on fees, delays out of the governor's office and a Carolina Public Press report on closed sessions in the western counties.
The Associated Press published a report today on increased fees and lengthy delays in getting records from the administration of Gov. Pat McCrory. The AP reports that it has a request that has been pending for 19 months. The wire service also recaps the institution of "special service charges" for filling records requests, which became commonplace in state agencies after McCrory took office. The AP says that even requests for routine information are met with delays of weeks and months.
The Carolina Public Press published a report on how the westernmost counties in the state use the closed session provisions in the Open Meetings Law. The CPP asked for closed session meeting minutes and policies on dealing with closed session minutes from 18 counties. Fifteen provided minutes or policies in some form or another. The online news agency found wide variance in how frequently and how much record keeping each counties did. For example, the commissioners of Buncumbe County, the most populous western county, only met in closed 16 times last year. The commissioners in Graham, the region's smallest county, met 31 times behind closed doors. Read the report here and see the records they've obtained here.
WRAL kicks off its Sunshine Week reporting with an impressive roundup of records-based stories its reporters have unearthed in the last year - from failures to serve domestic violence restraining orders to jobs data, superintendant contracts to an ethics commission investigation into lobbyists sleeping with lawmakers. Read it here.
The Hickory Daily Record uses public records to examine which county and municipal executives in its area are the highest paid.
The Fayetteville Observer says in an editorial on the Associatied Press' report that
The Asheville Citizen-Times says in an editorial on the Carolina Public Press' report that minutes from closed sessions need to be made available once the reason for the closed session has passed.
The Charlotte Observer urges the public to hold elected officials accountable by insisting that their government operate with transparency.
The Sun Journal in New Bern argues that "openness is central for a strong democoracy."
Citizen-Times editor Josh Awtry encourages readers to take advantage of their rights to get access to information.
Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht explains his city's efforts to live up to both the spirit and the letter of North Carolina's sunshine laws.
Associated Press CEO Gary Pruitt says that, nationally, the "right to know" has turned into a "just plain 'no'" when it comes to getting records requests filled.
Media lawyer John Bussian writes that public notices of government actions need to continue to appear in newspapers and on news websites to keep the public better informed.
And lastly, The Charlotte Observer's Kevin Siers has an editorial cartoon just for Sunshine Week.