Public Records Lawsuit Against McCrory Administration Will Move Forward | News
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Friday, March 25, 2016

Public Records Lawsuit Against McCrory Administration Will Move Forward

Posted by on Fri, Mar 25, 2016 at 9:25 AM


PHOTO BY JEREMY LANGE
  • Photo by Jeremy Lange
It’s been a bad week for Governor McCrory’s brand.

There's the continuing fallout over House Bill 2. And then that pesky lawsuit brought against the administration by a coalition of media outlets (including the INDY) and two nonprofits just will not go away.

On Wednesday, a superior court judge authorized attorneys for the coalition to move forward with discovery—that means deposing four public information officers who handle public records requests for various state agencies—in an attempt to find out why the McCrory administration just can’t seem to fulfill these records requests “as promptly as possible,” or at all.

Additionally, Superior Court Judge Joe Craig said during a lengthy hearing that he found a press release from McCrory’s office slamming the media outlets for making “exploitative” (the administration's word) public record requests “distasteful.”

The July press release made pejorative references to the plaintiffs, denigrated the lawsuit, questioned the plaintiffs’ motives in filing the lawsuit and suggested that responding to public records requests shouldn’t be a priority for state officials, the media coalition’s attorney, Hugh Stevens, wrote in an email.

Judge Craig noted that the state’s public records law “declares that government records are the property of the people, he characterized the law as 'egalitarian on its face,' and said fulfilling public records requests is 'intrinsically important,'” according to Stevens’ account of the hearing.

Ultimately the judge declined to dismiss the complaint as requested by McCrory’s lawyers. He will issue a written order laying out the timing and scope of depositions as well some preliminary rulings soon.

But lest you think obstructing public records requests begins and ends with McCrory & co., know that state lawmakers have their own scheme to withhold public information from the public.

As former INDY Week staffer Billy Ball reported for NC Policy Watch yesterday, Rep. Paul Stam (R-Wake) intends to introduce a bill in the upcoming legislative session that will declare individual teachers' pay to no longer be public record. The bill will include other sweeping changes to teacher and administrator pay and certification.

From the report:

With lawmakers expected to consider differentiated pay scales, Stam says it would curb jealousy among school teachers.

While the proposal does not mention public records exclusions on administrator pay, Stam indicated the legislation would limit administration severance packages to one year’s salary and bonus in order to place restrictions on ballooning administrator deals across the state.

The proposal would also open up teaching without a license to individuals with a master’s or doctorate degree in a certain content area.

Additionally, Stam’s bill speeds teacher certification for the spouses of active duty military personnel and axes the “break in service” designation that educators say can lead to lower salaries for teachers who move into administration.

The bill hasn't been filed yet but Stam handed out copies to lawmakers in the legislature's Select Committee on Education Strategy and Practices Thursday morning. 

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