When it comes to offering the public access to government documents, North Carolina ranks among the most restrictive states. Its sunshine laws are better described as mostly cloudy with a chance of refusal.
But a step toward more public access is being offered by three Republican state senators, Bill Rabon, Norm Sanderson and Joyce Krawiec. They are sponsoring Senate Bill 355: “An act to strengthen confidence in government by increasing accessibility of public personnel, hiring, firing and performance records.”
The bill would broaden the disclosure requirement for personnel files involving all North Carolina public employees, including teachers and all enforcement officers. In particular it would require a “general description of the reasons for each promotion, demotion, dismissal, transfer, suspension, separation, or other change in position classification.”
Currently, an explanation is required only in the event of a firing.
North Carolina last expanded access to public employee personnel records in 2010 in response to The News & Observer’s series “Keeping Secrets,” written by Dan Kane. Those changes required public agencies to explain the reasons for a firing, but other disciplinary actions can be listed without explanation. This change would further open public employees’ disciplinary records to public review.