Sunshine Day at Elon University March 14

This year's Sunshine Day at Elon University is March 14.

Please join us for Sunshine Day from noon to 4 p.m. Wednesday, March 14 at Elon University in Oaks 212. Speakers will include veteran journalists from North Carolina and more than a dozen experts and advocates for open government, including our keynote speaker Barbara A. Petersen, the president of the First Amendment Foundation. We encourage citizens, journalists, government employees, librarians, lawyers, public officials, anyone and everyone to attend.

The event will also feature the winner of NCOGC’s Open Government Hero Award. Nominations for the award are now being accepted at

Sunshine Day 2012 Program

11:30 a.m.: Registration

Noon: Lunch and Keynote

  • Welcome from Rick Willis, NCOGC president
  • Keynote speech from Barbara A. Petersen, president of the First Amendment Foundation.

1 p.m.: When Government Gets It Right

  • Moderator: Sue Rowland, Town of Cary clerk
  • Panelists: Harold Weinbrecht, Town of Cary mayor; Annette Privette-Keller, communications director for the Town of Matthews; Lee Yount

 1:30 p.m.: Strengths and weaknesses of the NC public records law

  • Moderator: Cathy Packer, W. Horace Carter Distinguished Professor at the UNC School of Journalism
  • Panelists: Fleming Bell, professor of public law and government in the UNC School of Government; Hugh Stevens, attorney and NCOGC immediate past president; Tom McCormick, Raleigh city attorney; Fred Clasen-Kelly, Charlotte Observer reporter

2:45 p.m.: Companies and Private Citizens Seek Public Records. How Well Does Government Respond?

  • Moderator: Matthew Eisley, manager of strategic communication at Smith, Anderson, Blount, Dorsett, Mitchell & Jernigan in Raleigh
  • Panelists: Hardy Lewis, Blanchard, Miller, Lewis & Isley in Raleigh; Gregg Stahl, senior deputy director of the N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts; Becky Strickland, former Summerfield town council member; Vernon Glenn, Clore Law Group in Charleston, S.C.

Speaker Bios

Fleming Bell joined the School of Government (then the Institute of Government) in 1982. Prior to that, he worked as a city-county planner in Rockingham and Richmond County, North Carolina. Bell is a member of the Continuing Legal Education Committee of the NC Bar Association, and he has served since 2005 as a gubernatorial appointee to the NC General Statutes Commission. His publications include Ethics, Conflicts, and Offices: A Guide for Local Officials; County Government in North Carolina (co-editor); Construction Contracts with North Carolina Local Government; procedure handbooks for city councils and small local government boards; and articles on citizen participation in board meetings and other topics. Bell earned a BA and JD from Duke University, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and was first in his law school class. He also holds a master’s degree in regional planning from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Annette Privette Keller is the communications director/assistant to the manager for the Town of Matthews. Keller has implemented internal/external communications and crisis management. Executed award winning Town Branding Process. Liaison with community groups and government partners. Achieved team management projects; such as budget, capital improvement plan, Customer Service & Wayfinding Initiatives, all which encompass Town services and departments. Executed successful Social Media, website redesign and the MyMatthews Application. Continued positive relationships with local and national media professionals.

Fred Clasen-Kelly, 39, has worked at The Charlotte Observer as a general assignment reporter since 2005. He has twice been a part of reporting teams that have won the Senator Sam Open Government reporting award, including this year’s prize for a series stories on the state’s new personnel records law. Prior to working for the Observer, he worked for three years as a police and federal courts reporter for The Indianapolis Star. He also worked for eight years for his hometown newspaper in Saginaw, Michigan, The Saginaw News. He is graduate of Central Michigan University.

Hardy Lewis is a lawyer with Blanchard, Miller, Lewis & Isley in Raleigh. He grew up in Fayetteville and went to college at Notre Dame, where he graduated in 1987. After a year spent repossessing cars in Chicago, he went to law school at Chapel Hill, where he graduated in 1991. After the bar he went to work at the Raleigh firm of Tharrington, Smith & Hargrove, becoming a partner in 1997. There his practice was concentrated in criminal and civil trials and appeals, as well as alcoholic beverage regulation. Mr. Lewis joined his current firm at the end of 1999, and his practice now is focused on complex tort litigation, business and construction litigation, and constitutional litigation. His criminal practice is mostly white collar and federal grand jury representation, along with death penalty postconviction work. He maintains an extensive alcoholic beverage regulation practice, concentrating on representation of craft brewers and the retail tier. Mr. Lewis has maintained a continuing interest in cases affecting matters of public policy. These include a successful suit to declare unconstitutional a governor’s diversion of $130 million of employer contributions from the Teachers’ and State Employees’ Retirement System, arguing as amici curiae counsel for a bipartisan group of legislators challenging a governor’s incursion into the legislative budget making function, lethal injection litigation in federal, state and administrative courts, and a recent jury trial in Chicago under the Illinois Sexually Violent Persons Act. With regard to the North Carolina Public Records Act, Mr. Lewis was lead appellate counsel in State Employees Ass’n of NC v. Dept. of State Treasurer, 364 N.C. 205 (2010). John Bussian, an attorney for the North Carolina Press Association and the North Carolina Association of Broadcasters, called the decision “the most important statement by the North Carolina Supreme Court on open government in 20 years.”

Tom McCormick is a graduate of the UNC-CH Law School and has been Raleigh city attorney for 35 years. He has been a director of the Wake County Bar Association and the N.C. Association of Municipal Attorneys, and he has served on several committees of the Interntinal Association of Municipal Attorneys. He is currently chairman of the Centennial Authority, the agency that owns the PNC Arena, home of the Carolina Hurricanes and NCSU men’s basketball team.

Barbara A. Petersen, a graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia and Florida State University College of Law, is president of Florida’s First Amendment Foundation. Before taking her current position in 1995, Petersen was staff attorney for the Joint Committee on Information Technology Resources of the Florida Legislature, where she worked exclusively on public records legislation and issues. A passionate advocate of the public’s right to oversee its government, Petersen is the author of numerous reports and articles on open government issues. She currently serves on the board of the National Freedom of Information Coalition (NFOIC) and the Florida Society of News Editors, and sits on the advisory council for the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting. Petersen is past president of the NFOIC and was chair of Florida’s Commission on Open Government Reform.

Gregg C Stahl is the senior deputy director of the Administrative Office of the Courts. He has been with the AOC for 10 years as the Senior Deputy Director and his primary responsibilities are the Judicial Department’s budget and working with the General Assembly. Gregg is currently responsible for five sections within the AOC including Fiscal, Human Resources, General Services (Purchasing and Warehouse operations), Research and Planning and Communications. Prior to coming to the AOC, Gregg spent 12 years with the Department of Correction as the Assistant Secretary for Policy and Planning which included working with the General Assembly. Gregg began his career with the Governor’s Crime Commission where he worked for 17 years, serving 5 years as the division’s executive director. Gregg received the distinguished service award from the Department of Crime Control and Public Safety, certificates of appreciation from both the Governor’s Crime Commission and the Department of Correction and the Order of the Long Leaf Pine for his work with the Sentencing and Policy Advisory Commission. Gregg is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, is married to a former high school French teacher and has two grown children.

Hugh Stevens is both a nationally known First Amendment and media lawyer and a versatile litigator. For more than 20 years Hugh served as general counsel to the North Carolina Press Association, which designated him as “counsel emeritus” upon his retirement in 2002. In 2003 the Association honored Hugh by selecting him to receive its W. C. Lassiter Award in recognition of his zealous defense of the First Amendment. In 2006 he became only the second lawyer elected to the North Carolina Journalism Hall of Fame. Hugh is a founding board member and immediate past president of the North Carolina Open Government Coalition. See Hugh continues to serve as general counsel to the North Carolina Press Foundation and as outside counsel to several North Carolina news organizations, including The News & Observer and WRAL-TV in Raleigh. He has represented numerous news organizations in cases involving libel, privacy and access to government records and proceedings, and was ABC News’ North Carolina counsel in the landmark newsgathering case of Food Lion v. Capital Cities/ABC, et al.

At first glance, Harold Weinbrecht seems like just another person from Cary. He’s a husband and a father, and he holds down a fulltime job – in software, of course. He coaches, teaches Sunday school, and is involved in his homeowner’s association. What makes Harold Weinbrecht just a little bit different from the rest of the men in Cary is that he’s also the Town’s Mayor. A native of Augusta, Georgia, Harold has spent most of his life in Cary, coming here first as a child with his family then later as an adult while attending NC State University. Since their marriage in 1987, Harold and his wife, Belinda, have lived and raised their two daughters in Cary.  Wanting to keep Cary the wonderful place he’s called home for so long, Harold became active in politics in 1997 when he helped start a web site called Citizens for Balanced Growth where he wrote about Town government meetings and issues. It was during this endeavor that he discovered that there were many people interested in the same things as he: a slower growth rate; a stronger focus on roads, parks, and schools; and an increase in communication between citizens and their government. In 1998 Harold was chosen as the first chairman of the Town Council’s newly formed Information Services Advisory Board, and in 1999 he was named to the Town’s Planning and Zoning Board. Harold ran and was elected to the Cary Town Council for the first time in 1999 as an At-Large representative. Then and now as Mayor, Harold believes that the role of local government is to maintain a high quality of life for its citizens by providing crucial infrastructure and valuable amenities. And then as now, faith, family, and hard work are the things that keep Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht grounded and in touch with the real issues Cary citizens face each day. Mayor Weinbrecht remains committed to managing growth, and he also believes in an open government where citizens have a strong and relevant voice.