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This week's Beacon brought to you by the First Amendment. sunshine week, March 16-22

®

SHALLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA | WEEK OF MARCH 20-26, 2008

47th Year, no. 19 | © 2008 the brunswick beacon

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Two students  die in wrecks

SHINING THE LIGHT…

waccamaw student, 9, killed in funeral procession crash BY SARAH SHEW WILSON STAff WrITEr

A Waccamaw School third-grader was killed in a four-vehicle crash in Hoke County on Friday after a car sideswiped the limousine she was riding in on the way to her grandmother’s funeral. The driver of the car was charged with death by motor vehicle and driving left of center. Cheyenne Thomas was killed after David Douglas Deming, 32, of Fort Carson, Colo., driving northwest on N.C. 211 in Raeford, came out of a curve, went left of center and sideswiped two limousines in the funeral procession, according to a report from the N.C. Highway Patrol. Deming’s 2003 Chevrolet then collided with a fourth vehicle, ran off the southeast bound shoulder and came to a stop upside down. The first limousine was forced off the southeast shoulder and then went back across the road, ran off the northwest shoulder and overturned. The second limousine was forced off the southeast shoulder before coming to a stop. The fourth vehicle came to a stop on the southeast shoulder, according to the Highway Patrol report. At Waccamaw, principal Beverly Marlowe said the school system’s community crisis response team was at the

ON PUBLIC ACCESS TO

GOVERNMENT beacon investigates for sunshine week BY CAROLINE CURRAN STAff WrITEr

It’s all about access. Access to public records and open meetings is the driving force behind the Brunswick Beacon’s Sunshine Week special issue. The Beacon believes in open government and access to public records for all members of the public— not just for those in the media. Sunshine Week, which is March 16-22, is a national initiative launched by newspaper editors in Florida in 2002, and it has grown to include print, broadcast and online news media in addition to civic groups and nonprofit organizations, according to the Sunshine Week Web site. The goal of Sunshine Week is to “open a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information,” the Web site states. Gov. Mike Easley has issued an official proclamation naming March 20 as “Sunshine Day” in North Carolina. The goal of North Carolina’s Sunshine Day is “to educate and inspire all North Carolinians to be diligent in

preserving our constitutionally guaranteed rights,” a portion of the proclamation reads. In an effort to promote public access and open government in Brunswick County, Beacon newsroom employees went to 19 different public agencies in the county seeking public records. We went to the agencies not as journalists but as members of There's more  the public seeking to know. access to public Pages 8–9, 12–15 records. Everything we asked for was a public record, and available to us by law. We hit some roadblocks along the way, but a majority of local agencies complied with our public records requests. Some agencies denied us access to public records. But we called every agency we visited to give them an opportunity to explain why they did not comply with a public record request, and to comment on their procedures for furnishing public records. A full listing of the 19 agencies, what public records we asked for, what the law says the

public is entitled to and how they responded can be found inside. Other stories in our Sunshine Week special issue focused on public information include North Carolina Public Records Law (9A), N.C. Open Meetings Law (8A), the Freedom of Information Act (8A), tips when making a public records request (9A), what information is public record at every level of government (13A) and how to make a public record request (12A). The special Sunshine Week issue also includes “What you would have missed,” excerpts of stories published in the Beacon where reporters obtained access to public information and open meetings by making public records requests and questioning the validity of a closed session board meeting. If this special Sunshine Week issue inspires the public and government officials to engage in a conversation about open government and access to public records, then the Beacon has accomplished what we set out to do. The information is yours— go take it.

Shedding light on public information:

SEE WACCAMAW, 2A

What you would  have missed

Fourth-grader, dad killed in wreck

BY CAROLINE CURRAN STAff WrITEr

BY SARAH SHEW WILSON

Ever wonder if you’re getting the whole story? So do we. But the law is on our—the public’s— side, and it ensures we have access to public meetings and records. When reporting on stories, Beacon reporters always strive to get all relevant information—whether that’s demanding access to open meetings or requesting public records, we always search for the whole story. Here are stories that were published in The Brunswick Beacon you would have missed if Beacon reporters hadn’t used N.C. Public Records and Open Meetings Laws: • “Calabash Commissioners fire town administrator,” Feb. 28. A reporter with the Beacon challenged

STAff WrITEr

A 9-year-old Belville Elementary School student and his father, an Iraq war veteran, were killed Friday in a motorcycle wreck on U.S. 21. The wreck happened north of Elkin. They were on their way to the mountains. Leland resident Sgt. Bradley David Martin, 30, who served with the N.C. National Guard in Iraq, and his son, Coby Lee Martin, 9, were riding a motorcycle north on U.S. 21 Friday morning when they came around a curve, crossed the center line and collided with a tractor trailer. The tractor trailer was driven by Denny Lee Teague, 51, of North Wilkesboro. It was traveling south, according to a report from the N.C. Highway Patrol. Bradley and Coby Martin were thrown from the motorcycle. Bradley died at the scene. A helicopter took Coby to Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, where he died. Belville Elementary School Principal

SEE SUNSHINE, 2A

SEE BELVILLE, 2A

More subpoenaed  records released BY CAROLINE CURRAN STAff WrITEr

More documents subpoenaed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office related to the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office have been released. Last Thursday, county Hewett

SEE SHERIFF, 2A

novant finalizes land purchase for new hospital BY CAROLINE CURRAN STAff WrITEr

SUPPLY—Brunswick Community Hospital is one step closer to its new facility. The purchase of land for the new hospital has recently been finalized. Novant Health, the Winston-Salem-based owners of Brunswick Community Hospital, has closed on a 100-acre site on U.S. 17 for its replacement hospital, about 3 miles from the hospital’s current location.

The 100-acre site purchased by Novant is part of a larger site owned by the Wilmingtonbased Cameron Management and Funston Partners. In January, hospital spokeswoman Amy Myers said Novant entered into a contract with Cameron Management and Funston Partners to purchase the 100-acre tract. The contract was for $50,000 per acre, or $5 million, she said. But at the time, Novant was still in contract to purchase 72 acres from the county. Myers said the Cameron

Management site is bigger with less wetlands, more U.S. 17 road frontage and more controlled access than the 72acre, county-owned site. The 100-acre site also allows for future expansion of the hospital, she said. Novant’s goal is to break ground on the new hospital facility in the spring of 2008, with construction expected to take 18-24 months. Though the spring 2008 groundbreaking is later than

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beacon@atmc.net editor@brunswickbeacon.com addirector@brunswickbeacon.com

INSIDE  TODAY!

SEE HOSPITAL, 2A

insiDe

SHALLOTTE BOARD OF ALDERMEN CONSIDER NEW SEWER TRANSMISSION FEES. SEE PAGE 3A FOR THE COMPLETE STORY.


from THE Front

2A the brunswick beaconTHURSDAY, March 20, 2008

WACCAMAW: SHERIFF: Investigation status still unknown; U.S. Attorney does not comment Service planned in student's honor FROM PAGE 1A

FROM PAGE 1A school all day Monday to provide support for students and staff. The team members provide group and individual counseling and also give suggestions to parents to help their children deal with traumatic events. Marlowe also sent a letter home containing suggestions for parents and to alert them to symptoms of possible longterm trauma that could result. Marlowe said this was Cheyenne’s first year at Waccamaw, and she had already made an impression. She loved reading and was well liked, Marlowe said. “Her father said she wanted to be a teacher. He showed me her treasure book from Supply Elementary, and she indicated that she wanted to be a teacher someday. She loved school. She was a very friendly, very happy child.” Waccamaw School was to host a memorial service for Cheyenne Wednesday afternoon.

attorney Huey Marshall released 55 pages of subpoenaed documents to The Brunswick Beacon. Among the subpoenaed documents were Brunswick County Sheriff Ronald Hewett’s oath of office, several law enforcement training certificates, Hewett’s West Brunswick High School diploma and several other awards and certificates not related to

public office. This is the third series of subpoenaed documents released since the federal subpoenas were first served on the sheriff’s office June 7. The Beacon filed a public record request with the county June 8. Marshall said the delay in releasing the subpoenaed documents was because of the volume of documents, and confidential personnel information he needed to redact. In January, Marshall re-

BELVILLE: Father was a veteran FROM PAGE 1A Joyce Beatty said Tuesday she and other staff members phoned teachers over the weekend when they learned of the wreck. On Monday, members of the school system’s crisis response team were on hand to provide assistance to students, particularly Coby’s classmates. “We were prepared for the children Monday morning,” Beatty said. “They talked to the children and were there for the teachers,” she added. “It was a positive day because the staff really pulled together and tried to

bring normalcy to the school.” Coby’s brother is in second grade at Belville, and Beatty said staff and faculty will be looking out for him. Beatty was asked to talk about Coby at the funeral and, while preparing what to say, she solicited phrases from his teachers that summed up the kind of student he was. They ranged from “gift from God” and “a ray of sunshine,” to “fun to teach” and “a redheaded Van Gogh.” The teachers recalled his generous spirit and willingness to learn as well as his “sunny smile.”

SUNSHINE: Laws help keep public in the know FROM PAGE 1A Calabash commissioners about the nature of a closed session, which resulted in the termination of town administrator Donna Prince. After challenging commissioners about the nature of the closed session, commissioners argued it was to discuss personnel policy and to establish a “code of ethics,” which the reporter argued was not covered by the North Carolina Open Meetings Law. The only action announced by mayor Anthony Clemmons was “a consensus of the board that he and two commissioners would begin meeting with town employees ‘to discuss concerns and how we can make our team better,’” he said, adding “We’re also going to adopt a code of ethics for the board.” In an editorial published in the same issue, the Beacon argued the board was in violation of the open meetings law. “While the board was legally entitled to discuss a specific personnel matter, in which a decision was made to fire town administrator Donna Prince, the other items discussed cross the line.” “There is no excuse for a public body to blatantly break the law,” we argued. • “Inmates’ work logs released,” Feb. 7. County attorney Huey Marshall released to local media outlets inmate work logs subpoenaed by the Federal Grand Jury in January. In addition to the inmate work logs released to the media, The Brunswick Beacon requested and obtained inmate work logs for September and November to provide a more thorough and accurate account of the inmates’ whereabouts for three months vs. other media outlets that only reported on one month’s worth of inmate locations. • “Subpoenaed documents released,” Jan. 31. The first series of subpoenaed documents related to the federal investigation of the Brunswick County Sheriff ’s Office were released in January, including more than 300 pages of interoffice e-mails. The Brunswick Beacon first filed a public records request June 7 for all documents subpoenaed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office related to the federal investigation. Marshall said the delay in furnishing the public records was due to the volume of the subpoenaed documents and the need to redact confidential personnel information. The bulk of the e-mails provided to the Beacon were correspondences to and from

Hewett’s then executive assistant detective Kyle Jones, including an invoice for 500 Koozies and cups to be billed to the Committee to Elect Ronald E. Hewett. The county board of elections complied with a Beacon reporter’s request to view Hewett’s campaign finances and furnished a letter from the state board of elections director regarding Hewett’s campaign fund. The Beacon also contacted an attorney for the N.C. Press Association for an objective legal opinion regarding the nature of the e-mails. •San Rio vs. Town of Shallotte In three stories that ran on Oct. 25, 2007; Nov. 29, 2007; and Feb. 14, Shallotte Town Administrator Paul Sabiston provided the Beacon with documentation that helped explain the detailed nature of a conflict between the town and a developer of San Rio. Last fall, Sabiston sent a letter to the state Division of Water Quality stating officials had discovered that developers of San Rio, a multiphase development planned for Gray Bridge Road, had installed sewer lines before receiving state permits. Division officials then sent a letter to the town indicating the permit approval process had been suspended pending an investigation into the developers’ actions. Sabiston sent both letters to The Brunswick Beacon around the same time he and the board of aldermen confronted employees of Wakefield Coastal, the San Rio developers, and their engineers, East Coast Engineering and Surveying of Shallotte. A week later, he provided the Beacon with a copy of another letter from the state Division of Water Quality stating the town could be fined up to $500,000 and asking for a response from the town and the developers. He also provided a copy of the response from the developers’ attorney, defending the actions as not legal because no live sewer was going in. In February, Sabiston provided the Beacon a copy of the notice from the Division

leased the first series of subpoenaed documents related to the federal investigation, which included more than 300 pages of e-mails. Of the 300-plus pages of emails that were subpoenaed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and given to the Beacon, most are inter-departmental correspondences between Hewett, his then executive assistant detective Kyle Jones and sheriff’s deputies. In February, Marshall re-

Caroline Curran is a staff writer at the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or at ccurran@brunswickbeacon.com

FROM PAGE 1A hospital officials originally anticipated, Myers said it would not affect the overall timeline of the hospital’s construction. “We are excited that the land purchase is complete and look forward to starting construction,” hospital president and CEO Denise Mihal said. “We appreciate the nearly 8,000 people who signed letters of support on behalf of our proposal to the state to build a new hospital. With that community support, the new hospital is becoming a reality,” Mihal said. In November 2006, less than one year after taking over the management of Brunswick Community

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“We already own the plan, and we can make any changes to the plan to fit the hospital,” Myers said. According to Myers, the new Brunswick Community Hospital will feature private rooms and include the following services: •74 acute care beds and four observation beds •Four surgical operating rooms •One C-section room •24-hour emergency department •Maternity center •Intensive care unit •Imaging services •Full-service laboratory and pharmacy •Outpatient services, including physical therapy, speech therapy and cardiac rehabilitation.

Photo contributed

Students display their replica of the Great Wall of China. Standing from left to right are Hector Sanchez and Brandon Mercer. Seated are Claudia Sanchez, Abbey Long, Ashanta Freeman and Charlee Bexley. The sixth– and seventh–graders of the Evelyn Smith Wray Village School recently made a replica of the Great Wall of China. The project was in conjunction with a lesson plan in which the students studied China. Students utilized foods from the school cafeteria to build the wall. They used three and a half boxes of sugar cubes, 24 sticks of butter, 10 bags of marshmallows, six boxes of Rice Krispies cereal and three cans of icing. The wall took students about a week to complete. The sixth- and seventh-graders invited students from the school to view the project and shared Great Wall facts they learned while studying China. The students learned scientists found out that 500 miles of the wall are buried underground.

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Hospital, Novant applied for a certificate of need for a 92-bed replacement hospital. Novant gained state approval for the replacement hospital in April 2007 for a 72-bed replacement facility. The Brunswick County Board of Adjustment granted Novant a height variance in December 2007, which would allow the hospital to be built up to 20 feet higher than permitted in the county’s unified development ordinance. Myers said Novant has selected the same architectural firm to build the future Brunswick Community Hospital that was used to build its sister hospital, Presbyterian Hospital Huntersville.

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ISSN 1528-6169 Established Nov. 1, 1962 Telephone (910)754-6890 Published Every Thursday At 208 Smith Avenue Shallotte, N.C. 28470

ties,” and requesting documents relating to finances, payroll and bank accounts of the sheriff’s office and Brunswick County Sheriff Ronald E. Hewett. U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesperson Robin Zier said at press time Tuesday no charges have been filed against Hewett or the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office. The U.S. Attorney’s Office does not comment on investigations unless charges have been filed, she said.

HOSPITAL: Firm was used to build sister hospital

of Water Quality stating that Sandler of Shallotte, the San Rio developers’ parent company, was fined $10,000 plus enforcement costs because they had “knowingly and willfully” decided to initiate construction of the sewer lines before the pending application was approved in October. • “Ocean Isle fire victims’ autopsy results released,” Jan. 10. North Carolina Chief Medical Examiner Dr. John Butts complied with a Beacon reporter’s public records request for autopsy results for the seven students who perished in a fatal blaze Oct. 28 in Ocean Isle Beach. In addition to the autopsy report, any findings or interpretations are also public record (G.S. 132-1.8), which were also furnished as part of the public record request. The findings the medical examiner provided to the Beacon included alcohol being listed as “a contributing condition” for one of the fire victims. Staff writer Sarah Shew Wilson contributed to this story.

leased one month’s worth of inmate work logs subpoenaed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in January 2008. The January subpoena is the second such subpoena served to the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office since June. Twenty-eight people were listed on the grand jury subpoena as “relevant parties,” according to the subpoena. In June, the first wave of subpoenas flooded the sheriff’s office, naming 36 “relevant par-

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Opinion

4A the brunswick beacon

thursday, March 20, 2008

EDITORIAL

Sunshine Week: It's about your right to know

T

he Beacon’s recent adventure into examining how local agencies respond to open records requests was eye-opening. On our part, we learned the value of understanding, in very specific terms, exactly what it is we are looking for. Because wording among agencies may vary, we learned how important it is to clearly explain what it is we need. We learned it’s important to have a good understanding of the public records law before going into an agency and to be prepared, at any time, to explain that to the individuals who have the records we want. Through our journey we learned although in many cases the law does not require the public to make open records requests in writing, it might often be the best way as it ensures there is little confusion between the requesting party and those who have what we wanted to know. One of the most exciting parts of this journey was learning how many agencies not only were versed in the law, but were kind, friendly and willing to respond right away. Agencies like the Brunswick County Board of Elections, the sheriff’s office, the parks and recreation department, the health department and others earned gold stars for their efforts to provide requested documents to the public. We were sadly disappointed with other agencies that did not comply with our requests or the law, and also had far too many reasons as to why they did not. In at least one case, one law enforcement official blatantly denied what we were legally bound to by saying he didn’t think his agency should furnish “countless reports to countless people.” The law is the law, and it doesn’t matter what officials in charge of public records think about it. When the law says a public record must be released to the public, it must be. And this goes for all taxpaying citizens, not just the media. While furnishing information to the media is an important step in getting information to the public, everyday citizens should know, with confidence, they have the ability to walk into any government agency in Brunswick County and get the information they are entitled to. We learned some agencies would try to hide behind the veil of secrecy, saying items requested are confidential. The law clearly explains what items can be withheld, and if an agency attempts to do so, it must explain how public records law does not cover that particular item. Our biggest concern throughout this project was with the number of people who we encountered who did not know if they could release what we asked for and didn’t know how to provide access to that information. We urge all government officials from mayors and town administrators to police chiefs and department heads to learn more about public records law. It is then their responsibility to either make sure those on their staff—from the receptionist on up—either know where to get the information or exactly where to point them. And most importantly, as dictated by the law, no citizen who makes a public records request is required to identify him or herself—or to provide an official form of identification. The law is the law and we hope our project this week has shone light on it. We hope in the future more open government and easy access is right at the fingertips of all Brunswick County residents. ®

We welcome your letters to the editor. Letters must have an original signature and must include your address and telephone number. Letters must be typed or written legibly. All letters are subject to being edited. Anon­ymous letters will not be published. Address letters to: The Brunswick Beacon, P.O. Box 2558, Shallotte NC 28459, Fax us at (910) 754-5407 E-mail: editor@brunswickbeacon.com

Scott R. Harrell | Publisher Stacey Manning | Managing Editor Sarah Shew Wilson, Laura Lewis, Caroline Curran and Kathryn Jacewicz Staff Writers Renee Sloan | Page Designer Morrey Thomas | Advertising Director Anne T. Hewett, Linda Cheers, Christy Williamson, Lesley Holden Williams, Dan Reeves & Angela Sutton | Advertising Sales Kim Bleecker & Amy Priddy | Classified Sales Teresa Roth | Advertising Assistant Dorothy Brennan, Keith White & Tammie Davis | Graphic Artists Marlene Jackson | Office Manager Susan Alley, Sue Smith and Sarah Hiatt | Office Staff Gary Short | Systems Manager Lonnie Sprinkle | Production Manager Jerry Mooney, Parren Williams & Sam Tyndall | Press Technicians

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Article contained only one side of the story To the editor: am wondering about some of the information contained in that splashy headline story, “Parents upset with student treatment.” In particular, the secondary headline on page three says, “Dankas: Teachers involved did not comment,” but then the article quotes five paragraphs’ worth of comment from the two teachers. Mrs. Norris and Mrs. Gore did explain the circumstances involving the Dankas’ son, giving a reasonable and believable account of events. School personnel are constrained by laws of confidentiality and cannot hold press conferences or even respond to press conference accusations outside of proper channels, such as a school board meeting. Isn’t it unfair of you to imply that they would not comment, leading readers to believe that their actions were not defensible? I would like readers to keep in mind that, for the most part, the article presented only one side of the story. Dorothy A. Brown Sunset Beach

I

Disciplining kids is a fine line To the editor: I am the mother of six children, 10 grandchildren and several great-grandchildren. When my children were young, I told them if they got spanked at school they would get another when they got home. If there was any doubt, I could always talk with the teacher or principal. Now, you can’t spank or discipline children because of fear of lowering their self-esteem. Now our children are out of control. I thought we sent our kids to school to get an education, to respect those in authority and use self-control. Young Jarrod’s parents should have gone to visit Mrs. Gore with their son and explained that his misbehavior would not be tolerated by them. Mr. Danka, please realize that children do not always tell the truth and I’m afraid Jarrod has learned that you blame the teacher and the child becomes a victim. All children are not

angelic beings. And now, grandpa, of the child who wet his pants, have you checked the reason for the teacher not allowing him to go when he asked? Some children will try anything to leave class. Sometimes teachers must use their best judgment about it or the whole class would be at the restrooms. Teachers are not there to be loved by everyone. Some expect students to do their work and not disrupt the entire class. Some children are bullies but their parents can’t see it. I believe problems in the school should be solved in the school and not make headlines in the newspaper. This is my opinion and I’m not running for the school board! Margie Mooney Supply

Let me wake up from this dream To the editor: s I have preached over and over again, this country has bred a nation of ignorant and poor who have only their cunning ways to beat the honest and free-hearted people out of everything they can get. There are still those of us who want to help folks who appear to be of need and of smiling face and exhibit a sincerity and truthfulness, yet when the chips have all be eaten, the smiley face goes away and the real truth of “do unto others before they can do unto you,” appears. If this keeps up, we will never be able to build enough jails to hold them all. Right now, the United States has more prisoners in jail then any country in the world. Because of the revolution of TV and mass communication sponsored by big corporations, the children of this nation have been set on a path of no return to civil authority and sense of responsibility. Everywhere you look, there are scandals and defrauding by the public officials of the people who elected them. Who are we to believe? One day, when all is equal, the masses will join hands and say, “Dear God, how far

A

have we fallen?” Let us go back to when the world stood still and revisit sanity again and begin a new world that is better, kinder and more thoughtful for all. Let us begin a new nation, stronger than before, more Christ-like than before, and a will and a determination to make the United States a better place in the world; a place to begin again, a place to value what will bring us into one nation for all and subscribes to a national language of English. Let those who come to our shores speak the same as we speak, so all will understand what we are all about at the same time.  Divided we fall; let not our tongues divide us; let us speak the same tongue so we speak the same message for the people of this nation. Not that one tongue is better than the other, but that we all know what we all should know, at the same time. The Bible speaks of the Tower of Babble. The separation of the tongues became the downfall of the tower. We must maintain the same link of communication, always. We must never have one part of the ship going one way and the rest of the ship going the other way, least the waves of destruction envelope our world. On March 6, I turned 68 years of age. Either I know what is not right with this world, or I am having a bad dream. Please, somebody, if  I am having a bad dream, wake me up. Oleun K. Stephens Ocean Isle Beach

Good column To the editor: hanks for the great column by Stacey Manning on the Taliban. You are right on. Although I am surprised that you remember the fallout shelters! Good job. Now, how do we get your words into the national media? No one wants to hear what’s right from us regular people living in Brunswick County and all around the more rural areas of this great country. Hopefully, they will hear from us in November. W.E. Shaver Holden Beach

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Sunshine Week

The light at the end of the tunnel: The outlook for FOI

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ith higher temperatures and March sunshine, it really seems like our long Minnesota winter is coming to a close. This brings us a sense of optimism, and hope. And it’s a metaphor for the future of freedom of information. I believe it is no coincidence that James Madison, drafter of the First Amendment, was born on March 16. This year, for the first time in a long time, there seems to be a real prospect that transparency in government could be restored. On the last day of 2007, President  Bush signed the OPEN Government Act, making important procedural changes to strengthen the effectiveness of the federal Freedom of Information Act. There are new penalties for agencies that drag their feet in replying to requests for records — or to put it in a more positive way, new incentives to encourage agencies to comply with the law in a timely fashion.

Jane Kirtley Guest Columnist

There is enhanced congressional oversight — an essential to the proper functioning of FOIA, no matter who is in the White House and no matter which party is in the majority — because when the legislature fails to keep an eye on the executive branch, freedom of information is always at risk. There is a new definition of “representative of the news media” — which is important, not because the press does or should have greater rights of access to government records than the rest of us, but because Congress recognizes that those who gather information in order to disseminate it to the widest possible audience deserve to receive fee breaks to make it possible for them to do so. There are even new “public liaisons” for each agency, and a new FOI ombudsman to run interference between requesters and the government. The bi-partisan team of Sens. Patrick Leahy (DVt.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) have joined forces again to introduce a new bill that will require members of Congress who introduce proposed legislation to create new exemptions to FOIA to “explicitly and clearly” state just that — in other words, to put a stop to the practice of burying stealth exemp-

tions in complex bills. These are all exciting and encouraging developments. But let’s not kid ourselves. Eight years of government secrecy is not going to go away overnight. The rallying cry of 9/11 was the pretext for policies amounting to an information blackout on an unprecedented scale: secret intelligence, secret prisons, secret torture, secret trials and secret surveillance — all in the name of protecting national security. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Secrecy does not equal security. In fact, it almost invariably undermines it. We know that the current administration in Washington is hostile to the very idea of the public’s right to know. It is ironic that, less than a month after signing the OPEN Government Act, President Bush directed that the funding for that FOI ombudsman should be shifted from the independent National Archives and into the Department of Justice — a department that, at see FOI, 17A


opinion

THURSDAY, March 20, 2008 

the brunswick beacoN

5a

Easter traditions provide lasting memories of childhood

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rowing up in a devout Catholic household, we celebrated holidays in many more ways than just going to church. On Sunday nights during the Christmas season, we’d light our own advent wreath and read passages from the Bible. On Friday nights during Lent, we’d attend the Stations of the Cross and follow it by attending the parish fish fry. We’d always have to give up at least one of our favorite treats during Lent, and our parents made sure we stuck to it. Although our family’s religious traditions are just as important today and definitely have stuck with

kathryn jacewicz me over the years, it’s the more fun, holiday-themed traditions that stick out in my mind. Easter morning was always as good as Christmas morning. Although my parents never gave us big gifts, we knew we’d have a huge basket waiting in our rooms when we woke up. The baskets would always be color coordinated and have our favorite things in them. But my mom knew not to put any of those choc-

olate-covered “egg” candies ent my friends ever got. in my basket. The best part about the I’ve never been a fan of Easter baskets was they eggs, and even though this were right there in our one is covered in chocolate rooms waiting for us. We and filled didn’t have with sugary wait until The best part about the to goo, it’s no our parents Easter baskets was they woke up to exception. In addiwere right there in our open or look tion to candy, through rooms waiting for us. them. there were always eggs To a child We didn’t have to wait with money who used until our parents woke to get in in them. up to open or look Some were trouble for filled with unwrapping through them. coins, some Christmas with dollar gifts early— bills. and being We always threatened had one golden egg in our not to receive a Disney basket with one $20 bill. In video one year for doing my opinion, that egg was so—this was heaven. better than any Easter presBut once our parents did

wake up, the real fun began. We always had Easter egg hunts throughout our home. Even as college students, my sister and I would push, shove, and scratch each other to find and get a good hold on the eggs. I remember them being filled with little things years ago, such as a plastic toy or a ring. But once we were college aged, eggs filled with quarters for the laundry machines back at school were the coveted ones. Not to brag, but I always ended up with the most eggs. I think it’s my youngest child, sick of hand me downs, wanting to be the first and the best at something syndrome. But regardless of who ended up with what, our Easter egg hunt

Sunshine Week is about your right to information

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ast week I sounded a bit like a broken record here in the Beacon newsroom. “It’s not about us, it’s about the public,” I said repeatedly; so much so that a co-worker pointed it out to me. But it was an important point I had to make. In preparation for our  Sunshine Week issue, we visited 19 different local agencies throughout the county making public records requests at each agency. Last week, we called every agency we visited to make a public records request. We gave every director, administrator, police chief,

Caroline Curran

superintendent or manager an opportunity to respond to our claim that they did or did not comply with our public records requests. For the agencies that did comply with our public records request, we asked if they trained their staffs to know public records laws. Most agencies that complied with the requests said the staff was trained in public records laws, and those employees who were unsure of what was public record knew to ask their supervisors. For the agencies that did not comply with the public records requests, their responses varied. Many of them reminded us that the Beacon has good, working relationships with their agencies and said that should be factored in to whether they complied with public records requests. But as I told them, the

purpose of the Beacon’s Sunshine Week project was not to use our sources to obtain the public information. The point of our Sunshine Week project is to empower the public—so anyone can feel comfortable walking into a public agency and making a public records request. Public records belong to the people. It is the law. Any member of the public should feel comfortable walking into any public agency and asking for any public record, without being asked why they want the information or what they plan to do with it. The information is theirs, so it doesn’t matter why they want the information or what they plan to do with it. We hope our Sunshine Week issue will shed some light on the public records and open meetings laws so that the public knows where and how to obtain public

records. We hope this issue makes all public agencies aware of what information they must furnish to the public when it is requested. We hope this Sunshine Week issue will open a dialogue about open government among our local political leaders. Many hours of hard work were poured into this issue, and I am very proud of how it turned out. But again, it’s not about us. So, we hope members of the public, local government officials and employees of public agencies learned something from this issue and remember that an open government is always the best kind. Caroline Curran is a staff writer at the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or ccurran@brunswickbeacon.com.

Coupon scam teaches difficult lesson

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ne night I logged into my e-mail account to find 923 messages; 922 of them were junk. My mom said she never wanted to be that popular. But, I am thanks to a little faux pas I committed a few weeks ago. There I was, minding my own business, checking my 14 e-mails when something in the subject–  line caught my eye. It said, “Free coupons and baby gear.” I couldn’t resist, so I clicked on it. The message showed a cute little smiling baby, along with the brand names Huggies, Johnson & Johnson and Gerber. Since having a baby, I have grown to love coupons, and the mere thought of them makes me want to do backflips. So, I went to the site. After filling out all of my personal information, I expected to have access to

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coupons or at least get some through the mail. Weeks have passed, and I still have not seen any coupons. However, I have seen an increase of junk emails—starting around 70 per day. My junk filter does not catch all of them. They are coming from so many different places, I have no idea where to begin to unsubscribe. There are a variety of ads—a little something for everyone. There are ads for pills, natural cures, vacations, jobs, divorce attorneys, matchmaking services, video games and exercise machines. If you want something gone, there is an ad for that. If you want to find something, there is an ad for that. If you want something smaller, there is an ad for that. If you want something larger, there are tons of ads for that. Some of the most interesting ones I have received were “advertising” a MacBook Air, and a matchmaking service. The MacBook Air advertisement invited me to “test and keep”

the new MacBook Air for free. If that were, true everyone would be typing their little hearts out on their own MacBook Air right now. The matchmaking ad had a subject-line that said “Find out who has a crush on you.” They made their first mistake by assuming that I would care if someone did have a crush on me. I am cruising the Internet in my pajamas, looking for coupons on a Saturday night. I am a modern hermit. Finding out if someone has a crush on me is not high on my list of priorities. The most surprising of all the junk e-mails arrived last Saturday. It was from “Dr. Suzanne.” The subject was “I know why you are fat.” My first thought was, “Who in the *%#@ is Dr. Suzanne?” I was suddenly overwhelmed by an urge to find this “Dr. Suzanne” and tell her that I just had a baby (well, about five months ago). I would tell her that I have always been big-boned. I would tell her that I am not fat—I am just really puffy,

and don’t ever send me emails again! But after a minute, I realized that I don’t know Dr. Suzanne. I don’t really care what she thinks. I just freaked out over a junk email. I would take a guess the shady company Dr. Suzanne represents did not get a lot of response from the abrasive sales approach. Some people probably had the same initial reaction that I did, and most people probably didn’t bother to read the subject line when they didn’t recognize the sender. Having an inbox full of junk has taught me a lesson. If you don’t know the sender or haven’t ordered something from the company, don’t bother opening the e-mail; and always avoid any messages conveyed in a pop-up window—they are nothing but trouble. And finally, coupons are not always worth the 30 cents you save. RENEE SLOAN is a staff writer and page designer at the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or rsloan@brunswickbeacon.com.

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was always one of our favorite traditions. My cousin Kevin has a tradition, too. At every Easter dinner, someone in our family buys a lamb cake. Every year it comes from the same grocery store, and every year, someone in the family is in charge of watching Kevin. See, Kevin likes to cut the end off the lamb, remove one of its chocolate chip eyes and stick it … you get the idea. As gross as it may be, it wouldn’t be Easter without it. Needless to say, that’s always Kevin’s piece. KATHRYN JACEWICZ is a staff writer at the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or kjacewicz@brunswickbeacon.com.

Breakfast house still a place to chew the fat

n Calabash early on a brisk March morning, local restaurateur Rector Sisk was busy greeting customers by name, ushering them to tables and asking about them in ways that showed he knows them as individuals. All the “busy-ness” didn’t stop the owner of Sunshine Pancake House from pausing awhile and offering his own perspective on what makes Calabash tick in these economically trying times. He listened as two of his regular customers who live in Carolina Shores served up their own take on the economy and what needs to be done. “I tell ya what I think,” said the man  named Charlie, a retired banker from New Jersey. Federal Reserve chairman Ben S. Bernanke “is an absolute idiot,” he declared as he and his wife prepared to exit the restaurant after having their breakfast. “Now he wants to make a big 1 percent rate cut.” “I think they should bring Greenspan back,” his wife added. As for goings-on along Beach Drive U.S.A., Sisk said he is hopeful the town of Calabash, in a move headed by commissioner and fellow businessman Forrest Sisk said he is hopeful King, will succeed in the town of Calabash, launching a local merin a move headed by chants’ association. Soon. Businesses, he said, are commissioner and the bread and butter of fellow businessman Calabash, which needs to do all it can to come to Forrest King, will their aid. succeed in launching “There’s not a business a local merchants’ that’s not off 20 percent in Calabash,” Sisk said, offerassociation. Soon. ing his unofficial revenue assessment of the economically off-times. The price of gas now exceeding $3 per gallon has had an effect on everybody’s businesses, he said. While the town can’t change the price of gasoline, what it can do is relax its overly strict sign laws, advised Sisk, a retired Washington, D.C., police officer who once owned and operated 22 gas stations and convenience stores in the Maryland area. When visitors pass through town, there are no signs to direct them down to the Hurricane Fleet and other businesses along Calabash’s renowned riverfront, he said. “If you take the businesses out of Calabash, there would not be a Calabash,” Sisk said. “It would just be a pasture. The businesses are the heart and the meat of what Calabash is.” And if anyone living in Calabash or Carolina Shores awoke that morning and “didn’t think they were in paradise, they should move,” he said, leaning forward with a chuckle as he sat at one of his tables. “If this is paradise,” Sisk said. “Just think how beautiful heaven must be.”

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Laura Lewis is a staff writer at the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or llewis@brunswickbeacon.com.

Some issues to consider when choosing the next president

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am not a paid political pundit or an elected official, but I am a political observer who has studied the platforms of the remaining presidential candidates. After studying those platforms, I am convinced some of the most brilliant minds go unheard because society is more impressed with those who have money, prestige and status than they are with those who have common sense. The question every voter should ask during this election year is which presidential candidate will protect the physical safety and the economic plight of America

Micheal darby guest columnist regardless of race, color or creed? This presidential election may be the most important in our lifetime because the next president will face the greatest economic crises since the 1929 Great Depression. I have not decided who I am going to vote for in the primaries or in the general election, but I do have some

ideas of the kind of leadership I would like to see in our next president. I am looking for a leader who is willing to sit down with Exxon and other major cooperations to see if they would voluntarily make a major investment in the healthcare and the public education of our children. I believe in free enterprise, but I also believe in assisting those who need help. Low-paid wage earners have heavily invested in American corporations. During these difficult economic times, it is time for corporate America to invest more in the lives of people

rather than in the development of real estate and the construction of tall office buildings. Oil companies have benefited more than any other industry in recent years. It is time to talk with oil executives and see if they have a plan to build new refineries or drill for new oil reserves in Alaska or off the coast of North America. If the answer is no to these questions, the American public needs to know if the oil industry is willing to invest in new forms of energy that would be less expensive for American consumers. An ideal presidential can-

didate would also be willing to pursue a policy that would balance spending between the military industrial complex and the domestic needs of this country. Americans are suffering because of inflation and the loss of jobs. Most Americans do not have high-paying military industrial complex jobs. America needs a president who feels the pain of the American people and at the same time will work within the budget and avoid unnecessary spending. Our next president should promote free enterprise and at the same time explore ways to balance the national

trade deficit. Persuading companies to remain in America should also be priority of next president. Our next president should encourage major businesses to remain in America, and when major corporations leave America, it is time to explore ways to give incentives to displaced skilled workers to start new businesses that may be similar to corporations that choose to leave the shores of America. I also envision a president as a role model who is willing to talk about the importance of education, the see DARBY, 6A


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8A the Brunswick BeaconTHURSDAY, MARCH 20, 2008

Shining a Beacon on secrecy What meetings must be open to the public: An overview of the N.C. Open Meetings Law By CAROLINE CURRAN STAFF WRITER

Would you know what to do if during a board meeting you were told to leave because the board was going to meet in closed session? Do you know what laws allow board members to meet behind closed doors? The first step in determining whether a meeting must be open to the public is to determine if the board is a public body. North Carolina General Statute 143-318.10(b) defines a public body as “any elected or appointed body, committee, commission, board or other group that is composed of two or more members who are authorized to exercise legislative, policy-making, quasi-judicial, administrative or advisory functions.” If the board meets these criteria, the meeting must be open to the public. In addition to being open to the public, the board must notify the public it is scheduled to meet. Committees of public bodies also are defined as public bodies. But several groups are not defined as a public body, and therefore do not have to follow the open meetings law. The following agencies are not considered public bodies: •Nonprofit organizations; •N.C. General Statute 143-318.18 defines the following public bodies as exempt, in whole or in part, from the open meetings law: the Judicial Standards Commission, the N.C. Innocence Inquiry

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OPEN Commission, the Legislative Ethics Committee, conference committees of the General Assembly, legislative caucuses, law enforcement agencies, occupational licensing agencies while they are creating, administering or grading exams, certain boards of trustees of endowments, the Board of Awards and the court system, including juries. Closed session Nine circumstances allow a board to retreat to closed session. But before a board can

convene in closed session, it must identify the specific provision that allows it to meet in closed session. Any action taken must be taken in open session. According to N.C. General Statute 143-318.11, The Open Meetings Law permits a closed session in the following nine circumstances: 1. “To prevent the disclosure of privileged or confidential information pursuant to the law of North Carolina or the United States, or not considered a public record within the meaning of Chapter 132 of the N.C.

General Statutes.” 2. “To prevent the premature disclosure of an honorary degree, scholarship, prize, or similar award.” 3. “To consult an attorney employed or retained by the public body in order to preserve the attorney-client privilege between the attorney and the public body, which privilege is here acknowledged.” 4. “To discuss matters relating to the location or expansion of industries or other businesses in the area served by the public body, including agreement on a ten-

Taking a look at…

The Freedom of Information Act By CAROLINE CURRAN STAFF WRITER

The Freedom of Information Act is may be the most misunderstood of all methods to access public information. But if used properly, the federal act ensures the public has access to records of federal executive agencies. People often cite FOIA for public records requests at the state and local level, for which it does not pertain. N.C. Public Records Law governs public records requests at the state, county and local levels of government. FOIA allows government and records access at the federal level. The Freedom of Information Act (5 U.S.C. § 552) makes the following information open to the public. Each federal agency must make the following information available to the public, which is taken directly from a 1996 FOIA amendment: •Descriptions of its central and field organization and the established places at which, the employees (and in the case of a uniformed service, the members) from whom, and the methods whereby, the public may obtain information, make submittals or requests, or obtain decisions; •Statements of the general course and method by which its functions are

channeled and determined, including the nature and requirements of all formal and informal procedures available; •Rules of procedure, descriptions of forms available or the places at which forms may be obtained, and instructions as to the scope and contents of all papers, reports or examinations; •Substantive rules of general applicability adopted as authorized by law, and statements of general policy or interpretations of general applicability formulated and adopted by the agency; and each amendment, revision, or repeal of the foregoing. The following information must be made available for public inspection and copying, which is taken directly from the 1996 amendment: •Final opinions, including concurring and dissenting opinions, as well as orders, made in the adjudication of cases; •Those statements of policy and interpretations which have been

adopted by the agency and are not published in the Federal Register; and •Administrative staff manuals and instructions to staff that affect a member of the public.

Federal agencies covered by FOIA

•Agency for International Development •Department of Agriculture •U.S. Air Force •U.S. Army •Central Intelligence Agency •Civil Aeronautics Board •Civil Service Commission •Department of Commerce •Army Corps of Engineers •Department of Defense •Defense Intelligence Agency •Defense Investigative Services •Defense Supply Agency •Department of Energy •Environmental Protection Agency •Equal Employment Opportunity Commission •Export-Import Bank of the U.S. •Federal Bureau of Investigation •Federal Communications Commission •Federal Maritime Commission •Federal Trade Commission •Food and Drug Administration •General Services Administration •Department of Health and Human Service •Department of Housing and Urban Development •Internal Revenue Service •Interstate Commerce Commission •Department of the Interior •Board of Immigration Appeals •Department of Justice •Department of Labor •National Aeronautics and Space Administration •National Archives •National Labor Relations Board •National Science Foundation

•National Security Agency •National Security Council •Department of Navy •Office of Management and Budget •U.S. Postal Service •Bureau of Prisons •Secret Service •Securities and Exchange Commission •Selective Service System •Small Business Administration •Department of State •Department of Transportation •Department of Treasury •Veterans Administration

Caroline Curran is a staff writer at the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or at ccurran@brunswickbeacon.com

tative list of economic development incentives that may be offered by the public body in negotiations.” 5. “To establish, or to instruct the public body’s staff or negotiating agents concerning the position to be taken by or on behalf of the public body in negotiating (i) the price and other material terms of a contract or proposed contract for the acquisition of real property by purchase, option, exchange or lease; or (ii) the amount of compensation and other material terms of an employment contract or proposed

employment contract.” 6. “To consider the qualifications, competence, performance, character, fitness, conditions of appointment, or conditions of initial employment of an individual public officer or employee; or to hear or investigate a complaint, charge or grievance by or against an individual public officer or employee.” 7. “To plan, conduct, or hear reports concerning investigations of alleged criminal misconduct.” 8. “To formulate plans by a local board of education relating to emergency response to incidents of school violence.” 9. “To discuss an action regarding plans to protect public safety as it relates to existing or potential terrorist activity and to receive briefings by staff members, legal counsel, or law enforcement or emergency service officials concerning actions taken or to be taken to respond to such activity.” All other business must be done in the open. The law also says even when a board calls a closed session, they must still notify the public. Minutes of the closed session must be taken just as the law requires in an open session. But closed session minutes “may be withheld from public inspection so long as public inspection would frustrate the purpose of a closed session” (G.S. 143318.10(e).) Caroline Curran is a staff writer at the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or at ccurran@brunswickbeacon.com

Brunswick County Board of Elections What we asked: Campaign finance reports for two candidates for the Brunswick County Board of Education. What the law says: “All candidates in political campaigns must file campaign finance reports with the state board of elections, and they are public records.” N.C. General Statute 163278.9, 163-278.22(4). How they did: Information requested for the first candidate was immediately furnished for 10 cents per copy. The second candidate had not yet filed a campaign finance report so it was unavailable. The employee explained the candidate had 10 days after the filing deadline to do so. The employee did not ask why the information was sought. What they said: “We’re constantly attending conferences, and every election cycle we attend a conference presented by N.C. State Board of Elections in which these issues are addressed on a regular basis,” board of elections director Greg Bellamy said. “You just come to know that this is a public office, and everything is open to the public,” he said, adding all employees are trained in N.C. Public Records Law.


SUNSHINE WEEK

THURSDAY, MARCH 20, 2008 the Brunswick Beacon

Shining a Beacon on secrecy Tips when making a public records request By CAROLINE CURRAN STAFF WRITER

Taking a look at…

N.C. Public Records Law Editor’s note: North Carolina Public Records Law, N.C. General Statute 132, and all other general statutes can be viewed in entirety at www.ncleg.net. By CAROLINE CURRAN STAFF WRITER

Public records are property of the people, and the law requires its owners have full access to these records. Chapter 132 of the North Carolina General Statutes dictates what documents a government must make available to the public, no matter what. The law clearly states every citizen has the right to access public records. But you have to know what records are public before seeking access to the information. The general rule of thumb is this: all documents are public unless the agency can prove by law that they’re not. If you don’t know, ask. The law defines a public agency as “any administrative unit with substantial independent authority in the exercise of specific functions.” Any public agency can release its own public records. The public records law covers many different records. N.C. General Statutes, 132-6 (a) states, “every custodian of public records shall permit any record in the custodian’s custody to be inspected and examined at reasonable times under reasonable supervision by any person, and shall, as promptly as possible, furnish copies thereof upon payment of any fees that may be prescribed by law.” Unless the fees are set by general statute, the agency can only charge the “actual cost” to copy the document. No fee can

ever be charged to view a public record. While not in its entirety, the following records are public and open to inspection: •Autopsy reports, including any findings or interpretations. •Bids for government contracts. •Economic development policies are public record. Economic development incentives are not public records. •Election records: voter registration records, campaign finance reports and an absentee ballot registry are all public records. •Fire incident reports. Fire incident reports compiled by fire chiefs or fire marshals are public records, but investigative reports are not public record. •Geographical Information Systems databases. •Governor’s records. •Gun permits. •Law enforcement arrest and incident reports. •Criminal histories. •Communicable disease records reported to local health departments. •Minutes of government meetings. •Operating records and contracts. “Government records and papers, such as budgets, bank statements, tax levies, utility accounts and contracts are public records.” •Personnel records. The following are public records for state, county and municipal employees, and employees or school boards and public hospitals: “Name, age, date of original employment or appointment to state service, current position, title, current salary, date and amount of most recent increase,

decrease in salary, date of most recent promotion, demotion, transfer, suspension, separation, or other change in position classification, and the office or station to which the employee is currently assigned.” •Professional licensing board records. •Sex offender and predator registries. •Vital Statistics. “Copies of birth, death and marriage certificates maintained by county registers of deeds are public record available for public inspection and copying are public records.” Some records are confidential by law. If these confidential records are commingled with public records, the agency is responsible for paying any costs associated with separating the information. The following records are confidential, and not public record: •DNA records. •Emergency response plans. “Emergency response plans adopted by a constituent institution of the University of North Carolina, a community college or a public hospital and the records related to the development of those plans are not public records.” •Juvenile records. “Neither law enforcement records in juvenile cases nor records of juveniles under the protective custody of a department of social services are public records.” •Individual patient records. •Disciplinary records. •Public utility records Caroline Curran is a staff writer at the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or at ccurran@brunswickbeacon.com

Brunswick County Sheriff's Office What we asked FOR: To view the county’s sex offender registry. What the law says: “North Carolina’s Sex Offender and Public Protection Registration Program and its Sexually-Violent Predator Registration Programs require those convicted of sexual offenses or of a certain other offenses against minors, such as kidnapping, to register with local law enforcement agencies, and most of that registration information is public record. State law specifically says that the following information about sexual offenders is public information: name, sex, address, physical description, picture, conviction date, offense for which registration was required, the sentence imposed as a result of the conviction and registration status.” N.C. General Statute 14-208.10(a). How they did: A sheriff’s office employee handed the registry over immediately for viewing. She did not ask why the information was sought, and also directed us to the Web site www.ncfindoffender.com for a statewide sex offender registry. What they said: Sheriff Ronald Hewett said employees in his department are trained about public records laws. “We have 200 employees,” Hewett said. “Some are new, but I’ve also taught my employees at orientation and interviews, anytime they have a question they don’t know the answer to, they’re to go to a supervisor.” Employees in the sheriff’s office also can call the N.C. Institute of Government to get the right answers for people, he said. “We’re elected by the public to be public servants,” he said. The sheriff’s office does not charge fees for records. “I do feel like we’re here to help the public,” Hewett said. “We get our salary from tax dollars. Our job is to help, not hinder.”

The most important thing to remember when making a public records request is to identify exactly what information you’re seeking. As part of our Sunshine Week investigation, reporters from The Brunswick Beacon visited 19 different agencies throughout the county requesting different public documents. The newsroom personnel did not identify themselves as Beacon employees but rather, said they were citizens requesting information. In some instances, they gave their first or full names if it was requested. Some agencies complied with our public records request immediately with no questions, while other agencies were hesitant to hand over public records. The public—not just the media—is always entitled to public records. There is no law that says a person must explain who they are or why they want the public record. Likewise, there are only two provisions that require a public record request to be put in writing. Two provisions allow an agency to require a

written request for a public record—requests for computer databases or copies of a geographical information system. But anytime you can put a record in writing it helps expedite your request. This way, the agency knows exactly what you need. Several agencies, including the N.C. Press Association, the Attorney General’s office, and the N.C. Open Government Coalition, suggest that putting a request in writing, while not mandatory, is recommended when making a public records request. We visited Brunswick County Emergency Services twice during our Sunshine Week investigation. Both times we requested one month’s worth of 911 call logs as our public records request. Both times we were denied. When we followed up with director Randy Thompson, he said the public records request was not furnished because his department did not know what information we were seeking. “The only thing we ask for is to specify exactly what you’re asking for,” Thompson said. “As far as I know, the people that came in [from

the Beacon] did not specify what they wanted,” he said. Thompson also said the request for information from the 911 center must be specific because of the daily call volume. “There’s not one thing here that belongs to us. Everything here belongs to the citizens of Brunswick County,” Thompson said. “We just need to have it properly identified in a format so that we can produce what you’re looking for or to tell you exactly why we can’t give you the information.” There are two provisions for which the contents of 911 calls remain confidential—patient information and medical histories and information pertaining to ongoing law enforcement investigations. Individual patient records are not public record. “We wouldn’t want to release something that is pertinent to an active investigation,” he said. “If they release too much information, it will interfere with the investigation.” Caroline Curran is a staff writer at the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or at ccurran@brunswickbeacon.com

Brunswick County Administration What we asked FOR: A copy of the county manager’s job description and to disclose his salary. What the law says: “There are 10 separate state personnel statutes, including those dealing with the personnel files of municipal, county, and state employees, employees of local school boards and employees of public hospitals. All the statutes make it clear that the following information about those employees in a matter of public record: ‘name, age, date of original employment or appointment to the state service, current position, title, current salary, date and amount of most recent promotion, demotion, transfer, suspension, separation or other change in position classification, and the office or station to which the employee is currently assigned.’” N.C. General Statute 126-23. How they did: The information requested was furnished, but we had to fill out a request form asking for name, organization or firm and town of organization. We were asked who we were and why we wanted the information. There was no charge for copies. What they said: Brunswick County Manager Marty Lawing said department heads regularly discuss public records laws at meetings. “We talk about what is public and what the exceptions are, I’d say, a couple of times a year,” Lawing said. With 950 employees, Lawing says not everyone is trained, but he said employees know to go to a supervisor or a department head whenever a public record is requested. Asked about the administration department in particular, he said most employees there know what to do, and if they don’t, they go to their supervisor or department head to obtain the information in a timely manner.

Brunswick County Board of Education What we asked: Salaries and job descriptions for the following personnel: Katie McGee, superintendent; Terry Chestnutt, assistant superintendent of human resources; Zelphia Grissett, assistant superintendent of curriculum, instruction and assessment. What the law says: “There are 10 separate state personnel statutes, including those dealing with the personnel files of municipal, county, and state employees, employees of local school boards and employees of public hospitals. All the statutes make it clear that the following information about those employees in a matter of public record: ‘name, age, date of original employment or appointment to the state service, current position, title, current salary, date and amount of most recent promotion, demotion, transfer, suspension, separation or other change in position classification, and the office or station to which the employee is currently assigned.’” N.C. General Statute 126-23. How they did: No information was furnished to the person making the public records request. The reporter left her phone number for Terry Chestnutt to call with information. What they said: Brunswick County Schools Superintendent Katie McGee apologized for the lack of a prompt response by her department for information that was requested. She told a Beacon reporter last week it was the first time it had been brought to her attention. McGee said she was in the midst of discussing the matter with assistant superintendent Terry Chestnutt and public information officer Robert Turner. McGee said it’s an issue that needs to be “addressed or re-addressed.” Chestnutt said he had no idea he was asked to return a phone call to a Beacon employee who had requested information. In an e-mail to the Beacon, Chestnutt said no phone number was left with him to return the phone call. “I am adamant that all phone calls are returned and all legal requests honored as soon as possible,” Chestnutt’s e-mail stated. He said clerical people cannot release information without permission or authorization from him. “If they’re not certain whether it is public information, they would need my approval,” he said. “As long as it meets public records law, we’ll be happy to comply with that.” One reason for the lapse in responding on the part of the department is the request was for personnel information, Chestnutt said. “Personnel is very, very sensitive,” he said. “You would have to be well versed in public records.” Schools, he said, “might be more complicated. It’s just that we’re very cautious to make sure we follow the standards of the law.”

See page 12A for more on Sunshine Week and responses from Brunswick County organizations.

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SUNSHINE WEEK

12A the Brunswick BeaconTHURSDAY, MARCH 20, 2008

Brunswick County Town Halls We visited six town halls in Brunswick County seeking information about town employees included in the public records law. What the law says: “There are 10 separate state personnel statutes, including those dealing with the personnel files of municipal, county and state employees, employees of local school boards and employees of public hospitals. All the statutes make it clear that the following information about those employees in a matter of public record: ‘name, age, date of original employment or appointment to the state service, current position, title, current salary, date and amount of most recent promotion, demotion, transfer, suspension, separation or other change in position classification, and the office or station to which the employee is currently assigned.’” N.C. General Statute 126-23.

Shallotte Town Hall

description and a salary range for the position, at no cost, and did not ask the person requesting the information who they were.

What we asked for: Salaries for town employees. How they did: The town clerk immediately furnished the request at no cost. What they said: Not every town employee in Shallotte is trained in public records laws, but “we train the ones responsible for it,” town administrator Paul Sabiston said. Those charged with that responsibility are “very familiar with it,” he added. “We try and control that by having two or three people in control of the documents. They know how to comply, and we make sure they comply promptly.”

Calabash Town Hall What we asked for: A copy of a job description for the town clerk and the salary for the position. How they did: A town commissioner demanded to know who was requesting the information, saying she “just wanted to know.” All information was furnished: a job description and a salary range for the clerk’s position at no cost. What they said: As to why a commissioner demanded to know who we were, mayor Anthony Clemmons responded: “I have no knowledge on that. We certainly like to be friendly and personal, and I would think anyone would introduce themselves as a matter of protocol.” Clemmons added the town administrator trains town personnel about public records laws. Every employee at town hall is capable of furnishing information requested by the public, he said. “I have no doubt in my mind that they would not comply with FOIA,” Clemmons said. “We always strive toward improving our staff in all areas and [public records] would just be one of them.”

Sunset Beach Town Hall What we asked for: A copy of the job description and salary for the town administrator. How they did: The town clerk furnished the information, job

What they said: Sunset Beach Assistant Town Administrator Larry Crim said town employees are trained in public records laws, adding staff turnover is “very minimal.” Every employee knows the law and is capable of furnishing public records, Crim said.

Holden Beach Town Hall What we asked for: Salary and job descriptions of the town manager, police chief and planning director or building inspector. How they did: The town employee told the person requesting the information the town clerk was out for two days, and said to call back later. The employee did not furnish any documents related to the request. A Beacon employee failed to call the agency back. What they said: Holden Beach Town Administrator David Hewett asked whether the request for records at town hall was put in writing. “By all means, I’ll get [the information] for you,” Hewett said this week. “I just need you to tell me specifically what record it is you would like to have.” “You all need to be mindful of what type of record it is that you want so people charged with keeping those records can make sure they’re meeting what the customer needs,” he added. Hewett said the town doesn’t have a very big staff, and a receptionist “isn’t human resources. It’s not her job” to provide the requested information for the salaries and job descriptions of himself, the town police and fire chiefs and the building/planning director. “She directed you to the office of primary responsibility, and you neglected to follow up with her,” Hewett said. In addition, he said when personnel records are requested, “there’s only certain parts that can be released, and you should know that.”

Ocean Isle Beach Town Hall What we asked for: A salary and job description of the town administrator, police chief and planning director or building inspector. How they did: The town clerk told the person requesting the information the town administrator’s assistant was busy and a town employee would contact the requestor later by cell phone. The infor-

mation was faxed to the requesting person four business days later. What they said: Ocean Isle Beach Town Administrator Daisy Ivey and town clerk Sue Stuhr responded. A Beacon employee made the request Thursday, March 6. It was referred to the human resources department on Friday [March 7]. “She said she would call back tomorrow,” recalled Stuhr. “I said ‘Do you have a phone number?’ and I took her number.” The human resources employee received the information the following day, and Stuhr said she didn’t follow up with the request because she thought the person requesting the information was going to call back and come pick it up. The following week, Stuhr asked the human resources staff if the person had received the requested information, and she was told the person had not called back. Stuhr called the Beacon employee on Wednesday of the following week and faxed over the information. “It went to the H.R. department on Friday, and we called Wednesday with the information,” added Ivey. “I don’t think two business days was unreasonable.” Asked how long it normally takes for citizens to receive information they request, Ivey said it depends on what is requested, but town officials always try to provide it “in a reasonable amount of time like it says in the general statutes.”

Carolina Shores Town Hall What we asked for: A job description and salary for the town administrator. How they did: The town employee furnished the person requesting the information with a copy of an employment ad for the town’s assistant administrator. What they said: Town administrator Linda Hercane said town employees are trained on public record laws, but a temporary employee was working the front desk when we requested the information. “The town clerk does go to schooling to become a municipal clerk. I’m sure the Sunshine Laws are shared there,” Herncane said, adding the town clerk shares this information with other town staff. Herncane said she would talk to staff about public records laws, and said the employee was not clear about what the person seeking the information wanted. “It sounded like he wanted the job,” she said.

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ENTERTAINMENT

How to make a public records request Identify the correct agency that is the custodian of the information you want. Be specific about the information you are requesting. Contact the agency via phone or go by the office. Many agencies have Web sites with a staff contact list. You can mail your public records request to the agency or visit the agency in person. Mail your public records request or visit the agency in person to make your request. N.C. General Statute 132-6 (b) states, “no person requesting to inspect and examine public records shall be required to disclose the purpose or motive for the request.” Wait for a response. The public records law does not include a time limit

1 2 3

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on when the public record request must be furnished. The law only says “as promptly as possible.” If your public records request is denied, talk to the agency. Ask them to cite a law that “trumps” N.C. General Statute 132. If you are still denied the public record, write an appeal. If you are still denied the information after writing an appeal letter, it’s time to call a lawyer. General Statute 132-9 (a) states “the time limit on filing suit is three years, and the burden of proof is on the person withholding the document to show that it should be withheld.”

5 5

See page 13A for more Sunshine Week news.

pages in our TIDELINES section each week. This section will include information about the arts in our community.

Premiering in this week’s edition of the Beacon. Submit your arts & entertainment news to the editor at editor@brunswickbeacon.com


SUNSHINE WEEK

THURSDAY, MARCH 20, 2008 the Brunswick Beacon

13A

Yours for the taking

What you're entitled to at every level of government Municipal

North Carolina General Statute 132-1 defines public records as the following: (a) “Public record” or “public records” shall mean all documents, papers, letters, maps, books, photographs, films, sound recordings, magnetic or other tapes, electronic data-processing records, artifacts, or other documentary material, regardless of physical form or characteristics, made or received pursuant to law or ordinance in connection with the transaction of public business by any agency of North Carolina government or its subdivisions. Agency of North Carolina government or its subdivisions shall mean and include every public office, public officer or official (state or local, elected or appointed), institution, board, commission, bureau, council, department, authority or other unit of government of the state or of any county, unit, special district or other political subdivision of government. (b) The public records and public information compiled by the agencies of North Carolina government or its subdivisions are the property of the people. Therefore, it is the policy of this State that the people may obtain copies of their public records and public information free or at minimal cost unless otherwise specifically provided by law. As used herein, “minimal cost” shall mean the actual cost of reproducing the public record or public information.

• Employee job descriptions and salaries • Budgets • Meeting minutes • Minutes of closed meetings after the reason for the closed session is resolved • Government contracts and bids on government contracts • Correspondence, including e-mails, between board members and town staff • Meeting agendas • Town ordinances •Land-use plans and unified development ordinances • Proposed plans from planning and zoning. • Police departments’ arrest/incident reports

County

Schools

•Job descriptions and salaries for county personnel Meeting minutes • Meeting agendas •Budgets • Minutes of closed meetings after the reason for the closed session is resolved • Government contracts and bids on government contracts •County ordinances •Criminal histories • County land-use plans and unified development ordinances • Voter registration, absentee ballots and campaign finance reports. • Sex offender and predator registry • Gun permits • Geographical information systems • Sheriff’s office arrest/incident reports • Communicable disease records reported to the county health department • Operating records and contracts • Vital statistics

• Budgets • Salaries and job descriptions for personnel • School construction and expansion contracts • Capital improvement plans • Community college records • Textbook lists • Test scores, percentages of improvement

Federal

State

•Operating budgets of federal agencies

•General Assembly records

•Case and docket information from Federal Appellate, District and Bankruptcy courts.

•Governor’s records •Public hospital administrative records

•Names and addresses of presidential, senate and house candidates

•Autopsy reports conducted by the state medical examiner

•Names and addresses of candidates and their authorized committees

•Criminal histories

•Names and addresses of candidates running in the current election cycle

•SBI records •General Assembly lobbyist expense reports

•Candidates with figures of their receipts, disbursements and cash on hand for the current election cycle

•N.C. Medical Database (excluding individual patient information)

•Recent registrations of candidate committees

See pages 14A and 15A for more on Sunshine Week and responses from Brunswick County organizations.

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SUNSHINE WEEK

14A the Brunswick BeaconTHURSDAY, MARCH 20, 2008

Brunswick County Parks and Recreation What we asked for: The department’s operating budget. What the law says: Government records and papers, such as budgets, bank statements, tax levies, utility accounts and contracts are public records. How they did: Director George Page told our reporter he would send her a copy of the upcoming fiscal year budget once it was completed. He said a current budget could be found at a local library or online at www.brunsco.net. What they said: Page said the parks and recreation staff is aware of public records laws, and are able to furnish the records to the public. “Of course, for things that are related to personnel, we send them to human resources. For bills, budget or any documents like that, we accommodate citizens,” Page said. “We treat the public as customers. We may not be able to [obtain the information] right that second, but we try to do it in a timely manner.”

Brunswick County Detention Center What we asked for: To view inmate logs and for a copy of a list of the inmates currently in custody at the Brunswick County Detention Center. What the law says: According to Chapter 148 of the N.C. General Statutes, “Prison records dealing with matters like the length of a prisoner’s sentence, the beginning and ending date of the sentence and any transfers are public record.” (N.C. Media Law Handbook, 2007, eds. Cathy Packer, Hugh Stevens and C. Amanda Martin). N.C. General Statue 132-1.4 C also requires that the following information is public: the name, sex, age, address, employment, and the alleged violation of the law of a person arrested, charged or indicted. How they did: While we were not furnished with a list of inmates in custody at the detention center, we were given access to a log of the inmates in custody. What they said: Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office Chief Jailer Capt. Kevin Holden said his staff is “pretty well informed of what they can and can’t release,” adding if they don’t know if information can be released, they will refer to a supervisor. If a person comes to the jail to see if any inmate is in custody, they will be provided that information, he said.

Brunswick County Health Department What we asked for: A list of statistic of communicable diseases reported to the health department in 2007. What the law says: “Health care providers—physicians, hospital administrators and laboratory directors—are required by state law to report cases of some communicable diseases to the state or local government. For example, cases of venereal diseases must be reported to the local health director. However, that information is confidential. Only statistical information based on those reports is public record.” N.C. General Statute 130A-143. How they did: A listing of the 2007 year-end report of communicable diseases reported to the health department was furnished at no cost. No forms were required to obtain information. What they said: “I’m trained annually about the open meeting and public record laws,” health director Don Yousey said. “If there are questions we will ask the county attorney but try not to take more than an hour to get that information.” While not every employee is trained in public records law, Yousey said each employee knows to go to a supervisor if they have questions about what information is public. “The supervisors should all know how to get that information.”

Open government is good government CHARLIE CRIST Governor of florida

T

he early leaders of our country held widely divergent views on many topics, but their writings reflect a common appreciation of the importance of the right to know. These leaders recognized that in order for the new democracy to survive, public access was essential. As James Madison wrote: "[A] people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives." Sunshine Week celebrates the people's right to access the records and proceedings of their government and continue a centuries-old tradition of public access in America. Some might say that the need to safeguard the public's right to be informed about their government is no longer as important today as it was to Madison and his contemporaries. I would argue that the mandate of government agencies to be stewards of the public trust has not changed. In fact, the standard may be higher. The agencies are larger, their duties are more complex, and a vast number of lobbyists are now part of the process. In the end, government is still responsible to the people. The public access laws give the people the means to hold government accountable for its actions. This fundamental reality continues to be as significant today as it was in the early years of our nation.

Each day, Floridians from Key West to Pensacola use the open government laws to make their communities a better place to live. They pour over government records, even draft documents, to see for themselves how their tax dollars are being spent. They also attend city council meetings, planning meetings, board of education meetings and countless other proceedings across the state. Through these efforts they are making a difference. When Floridians want to know which programs are working and which are not, they can find out for themselves by using our strong open government laws. They don’t have to rely on what bureaucrats want, or do not want, them to know. However, while strong open government laws are important, the people are entitled to more. It is up to the government leaders to make sure that the laws intended to provide public ac-

cess can be used effectively by the people. That is why in my inaugural address on Jan. 2, 2007, I spoke of my first Executive Order establishing an Office of Open Government. The purpose of this new initiative was to ensure that state agencies follow the letter and spirit of the public access laws. I liken it to removing the door to government and replacing it with a window through which the sun was shining. Executive Order 07-01 created the office and outlined its responsibilities to provide training and education to agency personnel on the open government laws and directed each agency to appoint an open government contact to help secure compliance with these laws. To date, 48 agencies, including 11 state universities, have established open government contacts and hundreds of agency employees have completed a training course on the requirements of these laws.

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The leaders of these agencies value the accountability that is fostered by our broad access laws. As one agency secretary put it: "We must put our energy into cooperation, not controversy, competition or divisiveness. We have nothing to hide, but more importantly, we should hide nothing." The goal is to ensure that each government employee understands and appreciates the value of public access to accountability and agency performance. More than 100 years ago, President Lincoln recognized that the people's will is the guiding force in a true democracy. Strong open government laws help to guarantee that President Lincoln's extraordinary vision of a government of the people, by the people and for the people will stand the test of time.

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SUNSHINE WEEK

THURSDAY, March 20, 2008 the Brunswick Beacon

Brunswick County law enforcement agencies As part of our Sunshine Week investigation, we visited four municipal police departments seeking public information. We asked to view patrol logs, and for copies of weekly incident/arrest reports. What the law says: Notwithstanding the provisions of this section, and unless otherwise prohibited by law, the following information shall be public records within the meaning of General Statute 132-1. 1. The time, date, location and nature of a violation or an apparent violation of the law reported to a public law enforcement agency. 2. The name, sex, age, address, employment and alleged violation of law of a person arrested, charged or indicted. 3. The circumstances surrounding an arrest, including the time and place of the arrest, whether the arrest involved resistance, possession or use of weapons, or pursuit, and a description of any items seized in connection with the arrest. 4. The contents of “911” and other emergency telephone calls received by or on behalf of public law enforcement agencies, expect for such contents that reveal the name, address, telephone number, or other information that may identify the caller, victim or witness. 5. The contents of communications between or among employees of public law enforcement agencies that are broadcast over the public airways. 6. The name, sex, age and address of a complaining witness.

Sunset Beach Police Department

Brunswick County Animal Services What we asked for: Euthanasia records for 2007: gas chamber vs. lethal injection What the law says: Government records and papers, such as budgets, bank statements, tax levies, utility accounts and contracts are public records. How they did: Two employees asked who we were and why we wanted the information. One employee said it was only released to the media but then called a supervisor and released the information at 25 cents per page. What they said: Animal services director Richard Cooper said his department trains employees in public records laws. “They may have misunderstood so I need to do a little more training up front,” Cooper said. “HIPPA regulations for medical and bite reports we don’t hand out. As far as public records, anybody can get that.” “If we have to release a public record to the media or to the public, we have to have a public release form,” he said. Note: Animal service departments are not one of the agencies that can require a public release form.

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How they did: The employee furnished a list of incident reports from 2008 at no cost. The employee offered to include one more incident that was not included on the incident log.

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What they said: Sunset Beach Police Chief Lisa Massey said the police department is trained annually in public records laws. “Usually myself, the assistant chief or the detectives' division will furnish that information,” Massey said. “Normally when someone comes in with information like that, the patrolmen will refer them to us.”

Shallotte Police Department How they did: The employee told our reporter she needed to specify what incident she was looking for. The employee would not let our reporter view police logs but provided her with a listing of incidents responded to on the reporter’s street. What they said: Police chief Rodney Gause said he did not know why the public records were not furnished. There are three reasons why they cannot release a report, Gause said. “The only three things that we can’t give out are victims of sexual assault, juveniles and information pertaining to ongoing investigations,” Gause said. “They just come to the front counter and tell the secretary or dispatcher what they need, and we’d be happy to get it for them.”

Ocean Isle Beach Police Department How they did: We visited the Ocean Isle Beach Police Department twice. The first time, we were told the employee did not have the information and to come back later. When we did, the person whom we were instructed to ask for information said he did not have the information. He asked our reporter who she was and why she wanted the information. No information was furnished. What they said: “The public merely needs to walk in and ask for the senior officer on duty, and they will get the information,” police chief Curtiss Pritchard said. When asked why our reporter was denied access to public information, Pritchard stressed his department cannot release information related to juveniles, sexual assaults or ongoing investigations. “I’m responsible for making sure that these are not given out,” Pritchard said about the three exceptions to the public records law.

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Holden Beach Police Department How they did: Police chief Wally Layne let our reporter view the patrol logs but would not furnish her with copies of incident/arrest reports, saying they were not public record because they had names and addresses in them. What they said: Layne said he did not think our reporter’s public records request was reasonable. He said when citizens of Holden Beach make a specific request, he complies with their requests, but he didn’t think his agency should furnish “countless reports to countless people.” When asked what a citizen had to do to request a public record, Layne responded, “From this point on, all they have to do is show up, because we’re going to comply with the law.” Editor’s note: N.C. General Statute 132-6(b) states, “No person requesting to inspect and examine public records, or to obtain copies thereof, shall be required to disclose the purpose or motive for the request.”

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COMMUNITY

THURSDAY, March 20, 2008 the Brunswick Beacon

DAR members salute veterans

Photo contributed

Brunswick Town DAR Chapter members Sue Prosser, service for veteran's chairman, and DAR Secretary Bonnie Becmer, celebrated Salute to Hospitalized Veterans Week on Friday, Feb. 15, by bringing donations of coffee, tea and cocoa collected by the daughters. A local 4-H group, a Girl Scout troop and chapter members and friends made valentines for the veterans to enjoy.

ATMC Cable adds FitTV to channel line-up ATMC Cable has announced it has added FitTV to its cable channel lineup. The network is on the Digital Plus Tier on Channel 208. FitTV is the interactive network that inspires fitness and well–being. It is the ultimate viewing destination

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FOIA: Light at the end of the tunnel ends secrecy FROM PAGE 4A least since October 2001, has demonstrated over and over again its contempt for open government and the public’s right to know. This is the same department that, instead of enforcing the FOIA, has zealously pursued leakers—people who have chosen to circumvent restrictive policies to make information to the public—and threatened those who receive leaks with prosecution under the Espionage laws. This is the same department that has condoned using sweeping subpoenas to try to force journalists to reveal their confidential sources — and not surprisingly, has obstinately opposed the enactment of a federal reporter’s shield law to protect journalists from the prospect of lengthy imprisonment or crippling monetary fines for simply doing their jobs. Some will argue that the restrictions and secrecy were necessary. Others contend that they were purely opportunistic. Right or wrong, for better or worse, the tenure of this administration is coming to an end. Later this year, a national election will determine who will decide the future of FOI. Those who care about open government are hoping that the candidates will commit themselves to an agenda that will reject the directives, policies, and practices that have turned the executive branch into a virtual bunker of impenetrable secrecy, and reopen it to public scrutiny. It is always risky to speculate about how a particular candidate will address these issues once he or she is in office. On the hustings, no candidate is against open government. Words like “accountability” and “transparency” may pepper their

speeches. And, as they utter them, they may even believe them. But I’ve observed government long enough to know that even the best intentions are often unfulfilled once an administration assumes office. Openness and accountability sound terrific in the abstract. But maintaining the commitment in the midst of the turmoil of political Washington is the challenge. Nevertheless, I remain optimistic. A new generation of voters, who are accustomed to taking and sharing information through the Internet, will not settle, I predict, for business as usual. The old techniques of obfuscation and concealment simply won’t wash with young people who seek out the answers for themselves and who demand transparency from those who govern them. That said, I do remain concerned about some things. I worry that the judiciary, which for more than 75 years has maintained an almost unbroken tradition of expanding and enhancing the rights of freedom of speech, and of the press, is retrenching, rethinking, and in many cases, restricting those rights. Whether it is the failure to recognize a First Amendment-based reporters' privilege, or a reluctance to allow meaningful access to digitized records because of theoretical concerns about security or privacy, or the continued refusal to expand the right of the public to observe judicial proceeding by allowing cameras into our courts — it all adds up to a net loss for the public’s right to know. I worry that legitimate concerns about security at the upcoming Republican and Democratic National Conventions will prompt our law enforcement officials to extend and expand their surveillance activities in overly

17A

zealous and inappropriate ways that will intimidate and chill the rights of citizens to engage in peaceful protest. And I worry that just at a time when my fellow citizens need in-depth news reporting—the news that is essential to making informed decisions—economic challenges will result in shrinking the resources that are necessary to support the kind of outstanding investigative reporting that we are honoring today. You may share these worries. You may have others. But however substantial and genuine these worries may be, I remain optimistic, because I recognize that those of us gathered here today, and many others like us around the state and around the nation, will not tolerate another decade of secrecy, predicated on fear. So much of the secrecy that exists today was based on panic. It was justified as necessary to address threats on a scale that most of us found unfathomable—and terrifying. It shook our nation to the core. But it is past time to get back to our first principles. It is past time to recognize that this nation is strong, that it was conceived in revolution, but born to live as a country bounded by the rule of law. It is my hope that our return to these principles—our return to sanity—is already underway. Our long journey through the dark tunnel of secrecy is coming to an end. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Kirtley is Silha Professor of Media Ethics and Law at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Minnesota. The above is based on remarks presented at the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information's Freedom of Information Day & Award Ceremony on March 14, 2008, at the Minneapolis Central Library.

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Stone speaks to SBI Rotary

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Faye Stone, deputy executive director of the North Carolina Commission of Volunteers and director of Citizen Core in North Carolina, speaks with the South Brunswick Islands Rotarians about the activities of Citizen Core at the Sea Trail Conference Center in Sunset Beach. According to Stone, the Department of Homeland Security provides funds to each state for locally developed Citizen Core volunteer programs, which include Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT), volunteers in police and fire service, medical response teams and Neighborhood Watch. In some of the core groups, volunteers are trained to provide hands-on assistance to county and state assets. In other groups, volunteers are trained to provide support and administrative services, allowing the county to more efficiently allocate the deployment of professional paid employees. Stone also complimented Rotarians Jayne Mathews and Randy Thompson for their accomplishments in training and use of volunteers for emergency preparedness in Brunswick County.

Smith joins NewBridge Bank as vice-president Marcus Smith has joined NewBridge Bank as vice president/commercial relationship manager, focusing on Brunswick County, according to a news release. “Marcus brings a strong level of experience within the dynamic Brunswick County market and an exceptional commitment to relationship banking,”

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Test Drive A New Furnace and Air Conditioner FREE FOR ONE FULL YEAR!* PLUS!!! $1000 OFF YOUR HEATING & AIR CONDITIONING SYSTEM

One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning selected a limited number of homeowners (79 to be exact) to participate in a FREE TEST DRIVE (TRIAL) OFFER. These special homeowners will be entitled to use brand new heating and cooling equipment with No out-of-pocket costs for one year.

You of course want to know the catch. Here it is: You are responsible for your utility bills so you are only using these quality systems with no out-of-pocket expenses besides the electricity or gas to heat/cool your home. The good news is, when homeowners in the Grand Strand Area replace units over 10 years old, the savings are as high as 40%. So, if your air conditioner or furnace has broken down in the past few years or you feel it could break down in the next year, DO NOT WAIT - call right now 910-579-2579. Many of you will pay over $500 in repairs this year on your utility-guzzling air conditioners and furnaces. Why would you throw good money towards a system you would replace?! And until April 30th, or until the money runs out, One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning will give up to a $1000.00 discount on select high efficiency systems. This timely opportunity is available on a first-call, first-install basis. Do not wait and then be disappointed. Simply get all the facts when you have your FREE Energy Survey performed. There is absolutely no risk, no obligation for this survey. Contact Janet at 910-579-2579.

Brunswick Beacon Sunshine Week 2008  

Sunshine Week 2009 is around the corner; here's a look back on the Beacon's 2008 project. The project recently won the North Carolina Press...

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