Happy sunshine week!

Sunshine week celebrates the bright light shining on government that ensures that government is accessible and responsive to the people -- after all, we are a government of, by and for the people.

Except in Deputy Assistant Governor Pat McCrory's administration.

Pat and his incompetent appointees have consistently all but refused to fuffill valid public records requests. They drag their feet. They try to charge exorbitant fees. Delays and inappropriate fees are illegal. Pat doesn't seem to care.

The delays mean the public lacks timely insight into how public dollars are being spent and how public servants are fulfilling their duties.

Pat doesn't care.

When Steckel abruptly resigned in September, The News & Observer requested access to Steckel’s work-related emails. WRAL separately requested all of Steckel’s emails that mentioned managed care.

Six months later, the department has yet to produce a single email.

Pat doesn't care. Or maybe Pat ordered this obstruction. We can't tell, because he refuses to produce the public records.

Maybe Pat's Prevaricators are really trying.

“We do want to turn requests around as promptly as possible,” Howell [one of Queen Aldona's cronies in charge of DHHS public records] said. “All records have to be reviewed individually to protect confidentiality.”

But others who have done Howell’s job said records requests should be filled in days or weeks, not six months or more.

Maybe we're being unfair. Maybe in this new world of government efficiency and customer service that Pat has instantiated in our state government, 6 months really is a reasonable amount of time to produce a few emails.

“Good Lord no, that’s ridiculous,” said Debbie Crane, who worked for 19 years as a public information officer, the last eight at DHHS. “Email is a pretty easy request to deal with.”

...

Crane said the longest lag time during her tenure was six weeks.

The story does not say whether or not Pat offered the public records requesters cookies while they waited.

But it sure seems that Pat is in clear violation of the law. Let's hope someone sues him.

Comments

Good Lord, no, that's ridiculous

Public records belong to the people. They don't belong to Pat. They don't belong to Aldona. They belong to you and me.

But 6 months after a valid request for public records -- let's state this very clearly: 6 months after legitimate requests for copies of records THAT ALREADY BELONG TO US -- Pat and Aldona haven't produced one single email.

We want what is rightly ours. Pat and Aldona won't produce it. It's ours, not theirs. They're violating the law. Send them to jail.

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"I will have a priority on building relationships with the minority caucus. I want to put substance behind those campaign speeches." -- Thom Tillis, Nov. 5, 2014

This isn't an isolated incident

It's a patterns.

And we'll argue that it's just about as bad as Christie's Bridgegate.

It's intentional, it's illegal and it is an abuse of power. We don't think that's an overstatement.

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"I will have a priority on building relationships with the minority caucus. I want to put substance behind those campaign speeches." -- Thom Tillis, Nov. 5, 2014

In my case the DOA complied with public documents request

I contacted the NC Dept. of Administration (Chris Mears, Public Information) and within a week not only did I get the documents about the Dix Lease, but they were posted to the DOA website for anyone to view.

I contacted the City of Raleigh (Public information office) and within a week I had the documents I requested concerning the Dix Hospital Campus sent to me in electronic form, which could be shared with others.

I can't speak for other public documents requests, but these recent requests were treated with respect and handled promptly--the way it is supposed to happen.

Keep in mind, the only thing you can do if you don't get your requests fulfilled in a "reasonable time" is to sue in civil court. The public officials know private citizens rarely have the funds to hire an attorney to take their case, let alone go to trial. Only the big media companies can afford to do that.

When I did a public documents request to NC State University many months ago (12-12-12-), it took about 3 months to get emails I asked for, and there was no way to determine if I actually got all the emails. I had to take their word for it.

Happy Sunshine Week!

Martha Brock

LWV Wake program on open government

• Hugh Stevens, counsel emeritus of the N.C. Press Association and immediate past president of the N.C. Open Government Coalition, will discuss “Just how open IS government in North Carolina” at the March Timely Topics luncheon of the League of Women Voters of Wake County. The meeting will be at the NCSU University Club, 4200 Hillsborough St. in Raleigh on Friday, March 28, at noon.

The public is welcome, but lunch reservations at $16 per person must be made by March 24 at www.lwvwake.org.

www.newsobserver.com 2014/03/14: Under the Dome blog

for further info, also see

Sunshine Center of the N.C. Open Government Coalition
2850 Campus Box, Elon, NC 27244-2010
(336) 278-5506
ncopengov@elon.edu

Martha Brock