When town hall is empty: Boards debate merits of in-person, remote meetings

After a mass migration from boardrooms to cyberspace last spring, one by one Western North Carolina’s public bodies have transitioned back to in-person meetings — with the exception of Sylva’s town board. 

Haywood adopts new rules for electronic meetings

Of late, many businesses and individuals have been forced to re-evaluate how they do things, but municipal governments are also grappling with governing in the age of social distancing and the “stay home” orders part and parcel to the Coronavirus Pandemic.

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. 

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