No more hide and seek

Published 9:16 am Thursday, August 5, 2010

As a business that depends on the flow of public information, this newspaper applauds the actions of the North Carolina General Assembly for approving and Governor Bev Perdue for signing a measure that, in essence, sheds more light on those who hold jobs paid by public tax dollars.

For way too long, public domain employees in this state have been protected by laws that barred disclosure about what goes on behind the closed doors of their respective jobs. The only information the press or the public was allowed access were the salaries earned by these employees…paychecks fueled by tax money.

Effective October 1, we will be able to learn more about these individuals, especially their employment history.

On numerous occasions, this newspaper has attempted to gain information concerning the details of why a county or state employee was fired, suspended, demoted or, in isolated cases, secretly transferred out of the area. On each and every attempt to gather the facts, we were told that information was protected from public scrutiny.

It’s not that we were being nosey….we felt, as conveyers of information through our jobs as journalists, we needed to have access to those facts in order to share the whole story with our readers. Upon being denied access, we, in this newsroom, would joke that the person at whom we were directing questions “jumped inside a filing cabinet to hide.”

According to the wording of the new law, employment histories and dismissal letters explaining why a public employee was fired will now be available. The law also requires disclosure of all suspensions or demotions, but stops short of having those actions explained.

With this new law in place, a giant step has been taken in restoring the confidence of Tar Heel citizens in those whose salaries are paid for by Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Public.