Open up the records of public employees

Last July, The Smoky Mountain News produced a series of stories looking into police reform following the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin and other incidents of violence by law enforcement officers. One of the takeaways from that reporting was that good law enforcement officers are, perhaps, more critical of bad cops than the general public.

Public records laws complicate law enforcement transparency

Despite the complexity of discussions surrounding reform and accountability in American law enforcement, it’s likely that many issues would disappear if it were possible to consistently follow two simple rules: Hire only good cops and fire all bad cops. 

Shining Rock demands illegal payment for public records

Editor’s note: This is the ninth in a series of stories on Haywood County’s public charter school, Shining Rock Classical Academy, which has been beset by a host of academic and organizational problems since opening in 2015.

Despite a long history of illegal meetings, improper closed sessions and complaints about transparency, the story of Shining Rock Classical Academy’s efforts to conceal its expenditures of taxpayer money has just entered an alarming new chapter.

Shining Rock suspends board operations pending training session

Shining Rock Classical Academy has a history of transparency problems, but after an Aug. 19 meeting with representatives of local media, it looks like the taxpayer-funded school’s unelected board is finally going to do something about it. 

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.

Open government is part of who we are

Whereas the public bodies that administer the legislative, policy-making, quasi-judicial, administrative, and advisory functions of North Carolina and its political subdivisions exist solely to conduct the people’s business, it is the public policy of North Carolina that the hearings, deliberations, and actions of these bodies be conducted openly.

— NC General Statute 143-318.9 

When our local boards hold official meetings, they often end with a closed or “executive” session. The North Carolina Open Meetings law allows elected officials to deliberate secretly on a just few specific subjects, which are clearly outlined in the law.

Haywood County revises public records policy

A flurry of contentious public records requests by a longtime local government watchdog has prompted Haywood County officials to revise and update internal policies on how those requests are handled. 

War of words: public records requests troublesome for Haywood County

Despite being called “a shameful person to deal with” and “obsessed” in highly unusual comments directed at him by a county official last week, Waynesville resident Monroe Miller shows no signs of halting his crusade to dig up some dirt on what he supposes are irregularities surrounding a Haywood County earthmoving project. 

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