Just in time for Sunshine Week:
A bill passed by the N.C. Senate last week to provide greater protections for government whistleblowers is a move in the right direction.
The Protecting Government Accountability Act passed unanimously, 44-0, after adopting two amendments that strengthen it. One requires heads of state agencies, departments and institutions to inform their employees about the law. The other clarifies that the protections cover state employee testimony to agents or employees of legislative inquiry panels appointed by the House speaker or Senate president pro tempore.
The key word there is "agents." They're called "private" investigators for a reason, because they operate outside normal parameters that dictate the behavior of government investigators. The Governor is right to shield state employees from their scrutiny, and to demand the General Assembly get its answers in a formal setting. And as for this observation:
The Cooper administration has said it’s willing to see these interviews happen in public hearings, but calls investigators’ attempts to interview them an “extraordinarily open-ended political fishing expedition.”
That language sounds uncomfortably familiar.
That's because you still don't get it. Private investigators do not have to follow the chain of evidence, they are paid to dig up dirt. And that dirt is very often of a personal nature, not institutional. Understand, if Berger had any real evidence of wrongdoing, he could file suit and get his answers via depositions and affidavits, or empanel a formal hearing in front of committee. And it's plain Berger does not have that yet. But that doesn't mean he can "deputize" non-government individuals to obtain that for him.
He can try, but we grant those individuals power at our own risk.