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State bill would limit access to public records

RALEIGH (AP) ó A North Carolina lawmaker is proposing a bill that would roll back access to records involving pay, promotions and dismissals of police officers and other city workers, the News & Observer reported Sunday.
The bill proposed by state Sen. Pete Brunstetter, R-Winston-Salem, would prevent the release of dismissal letters and would no longer require them to be written for certain employees such as sheriffís deputies and teacher assistants.
The information was made public by a 2010 law. Brunstetter says his bill is an attempt to clarify that law.
Beth Grace, executive director of the North Carolina Press Association, said the bill would shut down information the public needs to hold government accountable.
Brunstetter says local governments find it burdensome to produce salary and employment histories for workers that could stretch back decades.
He said the 2010 law puts agencies in a difficult position if they release a dismissal letter for former employees without giving them a chance to clear themselves in an internal hearing.
Leanne Winner, a lobbyist for the North Carolina School Boards Association, said sometimes employees agree to be dismissed as long as the reason for the dismissal is kept secret.
Winner also said that compiling information on position changes, promotions, demotions and salaries could overwhelm districts.
Two other bills being considered by the Legislature would expand the amount of information the public could learn about employees and would penalize officials who fail to release records.
One of the sponsors of those measures, state Sen. Thom Goolsby, R-Wilmington, said corruption cases in state and local government over the past 10 years have convinced him the public needs more information about personnel matters, not less.
ěItís the peopleís money. You work for them. They have the right to know,î Goolsby said. ěIf you donít like that, then donít work here.î
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Information from: The News & Observer, http://www.newsobserver.com
The Associated Press
05/15/11 17:28

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