McCrory illegally charging for transparency

The News and Observer is reporting that the McCrory administration is charging for public records, with requests for records generating bills of hundreds of dollars for electronic materials provided free by the previous administration. Story here.

McCrory's staff has interpreted a one-sentence clause in North Carolina's public records law as providing broad authority to assess a "special service charge" on any records request taking more than 30 minutes for an employee to process. Invoices totaling hundreds of dollars have also been assessed for requests for digital copies of emails that have routinely been produced by past administrations without charge.

The fees appear to run contrary to the primary principle expressed in North Carolina's public records law, which says government documents "are the property of the people" and that copies should be provided "as promptly as possible" at "free or at minimal cost."

Remember candidate McCrory's promise about transparency if he were elected? The article notes that lawyers for media outlets hit with the charges have advised them that the charges are likely illegal and to pay them only under protest.

I also wonder if Civitas, the Pope Foundation and the Koch organizations have to go through the same procedures and pay the same fees for records request as the general public or if our Budget Director Pope just email what they need right from his desk. It is a valid question for reporters to pursue - although Pope resigned as the head of his foundations when assuming his role in McCrory's administration, he still has attended Koch strategy meetings, for example.


And the primary offender is...

No drum roll required, we all know it's Queen Aldona. From the same article:

Among the state agencies that has left some records requests pending for months and demanded hundreds of dollars in payments is the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. The agency has been under fire in recent months for hiring former political staffers at high salaries for jobs in areas for which they have little experience, huge payments to politically connected contractors and botched roll-outs of computer systems for processing Medicaid claims and food stamp applications. Those issues came to light, in large part, through public records.

At a legislative oversight hearing last month, DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos suggested complying with the public records law is burdensome.

"It is very time-consuming for us and is pulling us away from the work we should be doing, whether it's Medicaid reform, whether it's now the federal shutdown, whether it's sequestration," Wos said.

Wos' agency has at least 17 employees working in its public affairs office, according to an internal staffing plan. Only one is currently tasked with handling public records requests. That employee, Kevin Howell, is a lawyer who previously worked as the communications director for the N.C. Republican Party.

This is absolutely deplorable, disgusting and nauseating on so many levels.

Art Pope, DAG McCrony and Aldona Wos are unfit for office.

"I will have a priority on building relationships with the minority caucus. I want to put substance behind those campaign speeches." -- Thom Tillis, Nov. 5, 2014

Pope Art's two faces

Contrast the cited story with this one, also from the Raleigh News & Observer:

A group of law professors at UNC-Chapel Hill is standing behind Gene Nichol, director of the school’s poverty center, after a conservative think tank requested the left-leaning professor’s emails, phone records and calendars.

Thirty law professors signed a letter questioning the motives of the Raleigh-based Civitas Institute, which promotes limited government and implementation of conservative policies. On Oct. 25, the institute used the state’s public records law to seek six weeks’ worth of Nichol’s email correspondence, his calendar entries, phone logs, text messages and a list of electronic devices issued to Nichol by the university.

In effect, this boils down to:

  • Art Pope is all but refusing to provide public records in response to legitimate requests; and
  • Art Pope is demanding public records for no apparent reason other than to intimidate a professor and quash freedom of speech.

Civitas is un-American and Art Pope is unfit for office.

"I will have a priority on building relationships with the minority caucus. I want to put substance behind those campaign speeches." -- Thom Tillis, Nov. 5, 2014

Back to the old days

Does the harassment of UNC faculty by Pope-Civitas remind anyone else of the days of the UNC Speaker Ban law?


Gene should charge Civitas his hourly rate of $500 for administrative work, and then spend approximately 1000 hours meticulously going through his emails to find those that should be shared. Ka-ching. The bill for $500,000 must be paid in advance.

And then he should issue this statement

"I can tell you that with extensive staff time, we are going to charge. Because everyone here has a job to do and a job function. And, yes, we do have to facilitate public records. Bite me, Civitas!"

"I will have a priority on building relationships with the minority caucus. I want to put substance behind those campaign speeches." -- Thom Tillis, Nov. 5, 2014