Winston-Salem Journal: House bill good on improving transparency, but Senate should tighten
From the Winston-Salem Journal (5/16/13): North Carolina’s Open Meetings Law appears to provide strong protection of the public’s right to see its government in action. In fact, however, the law has too many loopholes that allow secrecy.
The state House has voted to tighten one loophole in a way that will help us learn what governmental bodies are doing. House Bill 870 requires either the sound, or sound and video, recording of all executive sessions. The bill is now in the Senate, which should tighten it and then approve it.
Under current law, government bodies can go into executive (that is, closed) session for several reasons. For example, to discuss personnel matters, potential real estate deals, lawsuits, and other things. The law requires that the board keep accurate written minutes of closed sessions.
The law then requires that these minutes be made public when the justification for the secrecy expires. For example, the minutes would have to be released after a city council completed a real estate deal.