The takeover of North Carolina state government by Republicans that began in 2010 has led to clashes with Democrats over teacher pay, taxes, health care and support for public universities. It has produced “Moral Monday” protest demonstrations at the legislature over the state’s direction. And lately, it has also given rise to complaints from advocates of open government that many North Carolina agencies are violating state law by failing to release key documents to the public in a timely manner.
“This administration, and particularly the agencies that are within the ambit of the governor’s appointive powers, are just performing abysmally when it comes to complying with the public records law,” said Hugh Stevens, lawyer for a group of eight leading media outlets and public interest groups that sued Republican Gov. Pat McCrory and the secretaries of eight Cabinet agencies in July.
They contend the governor and the agencies aren’t following the state’s Public Records law, which states that documents pertaining to the transaction of public business are the “property of the people” and should be turned over “as promptly as possible.”
A request from the INDY Week newspaper in November 2013 for McCrory’s travel documents wasn’t fulfilled until March 2015, and came with redactions, the lawsuit says. Although the Southern Environmental Law Center requested documents in Jan. 2014 relating to the creation of special travel lanes on an interstate highway, it didn’t get a response until May 2015, the suit asserts. WRAL-TV in Raleigh requested documents in May 2014 about the transfer of the State Bureau of Investigation from the state Attorney General’s Office to the Department of Public Safety, but got no reply for a year, according to the lawsuit.