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ABC wants county to pay 7 cents per page in advance for records

By Jessie Burchette
jburchette@salisburypost.com
The Rowan-Kannapolis ABC Board is asking the county to pay 7 cents per copy for public records ó and pay in advance.
And the administrator of the N.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control system said all the records need to be put on the table for the public to see.
The system’s inability to produce profits has sparked the request for information. Among systems with $8 million in sales, Rowan-Kannapolis is the least profitable in the state.
Earlier this week, Marny Hendrick, chairman of the local ABC Board, replied to an e-mail request from the county on behalf of Commissioner Tina Hall.
Hall earlier sought and obtained credit card statements that showed thousands of dollars of charges for travel in several states including multiple trips to Washington, D.C.
ABC officials say the travel was justified and involved ABC business.
In her most recent request, Hall asked for additional materials, including detailed travel and expense reports for five years; an efficiency study undertaken with the help of former Food Lion CEO Ralph Ketner; an employee manual; and minutes of board meetings for the past five years.
In an e-mail to the county Tuesday, Hendrick denied three of the five requests, contending the documents do not exist. He wrote that the request for five years of reimbursement or expenses for ABC Board members and staff including a breakdown of travel, purpose and destination doesn’t exist and will require extensive work to compile. He said the request needed to be more specific and resubmitted.
Hendrick agreed to provide copies of the personnel manual and the board minutes at 7 cents a copy, paid in advance.
In the e-mail, Hendrick estimated it could take up to four weeks to provide the information and cited the system’s Public Records policy for the 7-cents per copy.
Asked about the policy, Hendrick said the board adopted the policy at its last meeting on May 26.
Since the initial county request for salary and charge card information last month, top ABC officials have cited privacy or confidentiality issues in each case.
Earlier this month, County Finance Director Leslie Heidrick asked the ABC system for audit management letters for the past five years.
Copies of the audit had been provided each year to Heidrick, but management letters were not included
On June 5, the ABC chairman provided copies of letters covering four years ó2005 to 2008. In the cover letter, he wrote “We consider these letters to be a confidential communication between our board and the auditor. We ask that you and the commissioners respect that confidentiality.”
The state’s top ABC official has a differing view.
Mike Herring, administrator for the State ABC Commission, said everything the local system has, excluding Social Security numbers and personnel files, are public records.
Herring said all local ABC units across the state are in the business to generate money for the public and need to be above board.
He said Hall is within her rights to request the records.
“They (the ABC board) need to lay it (the records) on the table. They need to be transparent,” said Herring. “If I were a citizen of Rowan County, I would wonder.”
He noted that the board of commissioners has the authority to replace the entire ABC Board.
Hendrick said ABC officials haven’t refused to provide records. He said it’s more of a timing issue, given the small staff and the preparation for the upcoming audit.
General Manager Terry Osborne did refuse to provide charge card statements and salary information to the county following a May 12 request from Hall.
On May 18, Osborne told Carolyn Athey, clerk to the Board of Commissioner, that he would not provide the information until instructed to do so by his board.
A few days later, Osborne provided the documents.
Asked Thursday when he was instructed to provide the documents, Osborne said he doesn’t remember.
Contact Jessie Burchette at 704-797-4254.

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