Three Wilmington police officers were fired last year after video footage from one officer’s cruiser revealed they had made a slew of racist and hate-filled remarks. Employee records later showed that two of those three officers had been demoted or terminated by the Wilmington Police Department before, but the reasons for those disciplinary actions aren’t public record.
Now, a bill to make disciplinary records of government employees in North Carolina more public seems to be catching a second wind in the state legislature.
Current law requires the “general description of the reasons” for a government employee’s promotion to be public record in North Carolina. That means that as it stands now, public officials — including law enforcement, teachers and school administrators — can be demoted, suspended or transferred without the public ever knowing why. (A 2010 law made public whether employees had been suspended or demoted, but it doesn’t require a description of the reasons.)
The Government Transparency Act of 2021 would expand this requirement to provide the general descriptions for demotions, transfers, suspensions, separations and dismissals. It would apply to all current and former state employees, local government employees and public school employees.
The bill has had a long, hard journey in the legislature this session — two different iterations of the bill have been passed between the House and Senate, ultimately landing in conference committees. Floor votes have fallen mostly along party lines, with Democrats largely voting against the legislation.