The NC Press Association 1) corrects the misinformation in NCAE's letter to NC state senators about the public records laws in other states (where virtually complete public access to the entire government personnel file is guaranteed) when compared to NC’s 50 year old, total ban on public access to reasons for disciplinary actions taken against those employed by the public; and 2) dispels the false NCAE-SEANC-Teamsters’ notion and narrative that the bill is legally defective.
It is worth remembering that the bill’s core language dramatically improving NC Public Records Law was crafted in 2010 through the work of then-state Democrat Senator Dan Clodfelter and then-state senate Minority Leader Phil Berger. That language would require — for the first time in NC history — disclosure of a “general description of the reasons” for a demotion, suspension, separation, or termination of a government employee to the taxpaying public who employ them in state and local government.):
RE: NCAE misinformation campaign
On behalf of the North Carolina Press Association and the other statewide organizations supporting SB 355, we'd like to dispel the misinformation crafted by the NCAE:
- First and foremost, The Government Transparency Act is nothing close to a radical, new approach extending beyond the public’s right to know in most other states. In fact, the vast majority of open government states, including the top tier public records laws in Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Florida, Ohio, and Texas allow access to virtually the entire public employee personnel file (minus social security and bank account numbers and the like). Thirty more states, Iowa notably among them, offer access to reasons for disciplinary actions like those contained in SB 355.
- Contrary to the NCAE’s arguments, due process safeguards exist — by statute or by agency procedural rules — at every level of city, county, and state government for employees who believe they have been wrongfully accused and discharged. Language has been added to the bill to prohibit disclosure of personal medical information; and additional safeguards are built into judicial decisions that are well-known to public sector lawyers, who train their state and local government managers to use them when appropriate. There is nothing legally defective — much less constitutionally defective — about this bill.
- A general description of the reasons for demotions, suspensions, and terminations have been kept secret from the public for far too long in North Carolina. It’s high time North Carolina joined the ranks of the most transparent states by passing SB 355.