Support the Transparency Act

Published 10:45 am Thursday, March 17, 2011

Transparency in government should be as easy as looking through a pane glass window.

Unfortunately that’s not always the case.

Even a slight hint of a government official or board not being straight forward with a request for public information casts a long and dark shadow on the entire process…now and in the future.

On Tuesday, the North Carolina Press Association came out strongly in support of The Government Transparency Act of 2011, and praised the sponsors and co-sponsors for their support of open government, especially this week – “Sunshine Week” – one dedicated to examining open government laws around the nation.

The new bill covers state, county and city employees, public authorities, and local schools. It seeks to:

Restore the requirement that reasons be given for all promotions, suspensions, demotions, transfers or separation;

Requires release of performance records; and

Broaden the situations in which attorney fees can be awarded to winning plaintiffs, making it automatic for winners of all open meetings and open records lawsuits.

North Carolina has had one of the most secretive personnel records laws in the nation. Most other states have for years allowed much more access to records pertaining to those the public pays to run its government agencies. Last year, the omnibus ethics bill that was passed at the last minute of the last day of the Legislative session opened new access to pay and employment histories and dismissal letters, and required disclosure of all suspensions or demotions, but did not require an explanation for those actions.

The proposed new Transparency Act is important to everyone – from parents of schoolchildren to taxpayers to newspaper reporters. This newspaper supports it and we urge our readers to contact their local state legislators to champion this cause as well.

– The Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald