Public records requests shed light on closed sessions

In its role as government watchdog, The Smoky Mountain News submitted public record requests to county and municipal governments in our four-county coverage area asking for the minutes of all closed meetings held in 2018. While the governmental bodies responded with differing degrees of compliance, detail and responsiveness, the ultimate goal was to hold government accountable and keep the public’s business in the open.

Behind closed doors: Public records laws have exceptions

Woe to those public bodies that fail to comply with North Carolina’s sunshine laws; transparency underpins American democracy to the extent that there’s a whole chapter of complicated regulations in the N.C. General Statutes that define public records, public meetings, the availability of both and the very real penalties for violations.

Closed sessions easily accessible in Jackson

Of all the local governments in The Smoky Mountain News’ coverage area, Jackson County has some of the most complete closed session minutes and arguably the easiest system for obtaining them. 

Detail varies in Sylva minutes

Of the nine closed-session discussions Sylva commissioners held last year, only three — all attorney-client privilege conversations related to an ongoing court case — are still sealed. 

Bryson City tackles personnel issues in closed meetings

Personnel issues have been the only reason why Bryson City Aldermen have held closed meetings in 2018. 

Swain uses closed meetings for contract talks

Swain County commissioners typically hold two meetings per month, and it’s not unusual for them to have a closed session on the agenda. 

Franklin business rarely out of public view

Of all the town and county governments in The Smoky Mountain News coverage area, the Franklin Town Council had the fewest closed meetings in 2018. 

Closed meetings the norm in Macon

A vast majority of Macon County Board of Commissioners meetings end with a closed session. In fact, commissioners spent more than 400 minutes — over seven hours — conducting business behind closed doors in 2018. 

Development, personnel drive Haywood closed sessions

As the largest local government unit in The Smoky Mountain News’ four-county coverage area, Haywood County sees more action — in public, and in private — than probably any other government out there. 

Waynesville closed sessions boring, but by the book

The Town of Waynesville Board of Aldermen meets every two weeks, or about 24 times a year, depending on the calendar. 

Page 1 of 2
Smokey Mountain News Logo
Go to top
Payment Information


At our inception 20 years ago, we chose to be different. Unlike other news organizations, we made the decision to provide in-depth, regional reporting free to anyone who wanted access to it. We don’t plan to change that model. Support from our readers will help us maintain and strengthen the editorial independence that is crucial to our mission to help make Western North Carolina a better place to call home. If you are able, please support The Smoky Mountain News.

The Smoky Mountain News is a wholly private corporation. Reader contributions support the journalistic mission of SMN to remain independent. Your support of SMN does not constitute a charitable donation. If you have a question about contributing to SMN, please contact us.