Tuesday, March 25, 2008

How much open government?

How much government should be open?
Last week’s Sunshine Day observance at Elon University examined some provocative issues regarding governmental transparency. The keynote luncheon speaker was former state public information officer Debbie Crane, who was shown the door on Gov. Mike Easley’s orders at the Department of Health and Human Services in what appeared to be a fit of gubernatorial pique.
Her speech appears on the Web site of the John Locke Foundation's Carolina Journal. Click here to read it.
Among other things, she argues, correctly I believe, that all e-mails ought to be retained, not “chunked” when a state employee deems it not necessary for administrative or reference value. She said:
“With few exceptions, most materials are public record. So rather than debating who deletes what and when, public officials should be required to maintain archives of their emails. Rather than cluttering up the state server and taking lots of time, as Freeman suggests, these archives could be maintained on discs or pst [Personal Storage Table] files. Memory is cheap and convenient these days. This wouldn’t require a huge amount of effort in terms of either financial cost or administrative practicality. It is simply a matter of building it into the process of doing daily business.”
Meanwhile, Gov. Mike Easley has appointed the members of a panel that will re-examine the state’s e-mail retention policy. Among them are former Observer Raleigh correspondent Ned Cline of Greensboro.
Here’s the press release from the governor’s office:
GOV. EASLEY ANNOUNCES MEMBERS OF E-MAIL RECORDS REVIEW PANEL
First Meeting Is Set For Thursday, March 27 In Raleigh
RALEIGH - Gov. Mike Easley today announced the membership of a special panel that will conduct a comprehensive review of policies concerning the retention of e-mail messages under the North Carolina’s public records law. The panel’s first meeting will be at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, March 27 in the Council of State meeting room on the 5th floor of the Administration Building, 16 W. Jones St., Raleigh.
"These are distinguished individuals, from inside and outside of state government, who bring both experience and concern for public affairs and public information to this important task," said Easley. "I know their input will provide guidance so that we make sure the public’s records are properly maintained."
Previously, Easley directed Franklin Freeman, his senior assistant for government affairs, to lead the panel and directed him to conduct a comprehensive review of policies concerning the retention of e-mail messages under the state’s public records law and make recommendations for any changes in policy or state law. He also named Ferrel Guillory, the founder the Program on Public Life and member of the faculty of the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Journalism and Mass Communication, to the panel.
Others named to the panel include:
Ned Cline, former managing editor of the Greensboro News & Record: Cline spent more than 30 years as a reporter and editor, covering state government for the Greensboro Daily News and the Charlotte Observer and as an editor and editorial page editor at the News & Record. He has also published biographies of former state Sen. Marshall Rauch of Gastonia and Joseph M. Bryan; "Adding Value: The Joseph M. Bryan Story from Poverty to Philanthropy." In 1974 he was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University.
DeWitt F. (Mac) McCarley, Charlotte City Attorney: McCarley has been city attorney for Charlotte since 1994 and before that was city attorney in Greenville. He is a past president of the North Carolina Municipal Attorneys Association and is 2nd vice president of the International Municipal Lawyers Association.
Staci Meyer, chief deputy secretary N.C. Department of Cultural Resources: Prior to joining the Department of Cultural Resources, Meyer was a special deputy attorney general in the N.C. Justice Department for litigation, health care and personnel matters. She was clerk to former Chief Court of Appeals Judge Robert Hedrick.
George Bakolia, state chief information officer: Bakolia has more than 27 years of experience in information systems in both the public and private sectors. Prior to his appointment in 2002, he was the chief information officer at the N.C. Department of Justice. He spent more than a decade in the private sector before joining state government, working for Unisys Corporation, supporting United Airlines as well as state of North Carolina clients, from 1985 until 1990. He held various positions at Sperry Corporation from 1979 to 1985. He received his bachelor’s of arts degree in computer science at CUNY Queens College in New York.
Bryan Beatty, secretary of Crime Control and Public Safety: Beatty, a former SBI agent, has served as director of the State Bureau of Investigation and Deputy Attorney General for Policy and Planning for the Department of Justice. He also served as an associate attorney general assigned to represent the UNC Hospital system and as an assistant attorney general in the Motor Vehicles Section. In November 1997 he was named the first Inspector General for the State, where he was responsible for a staff of attorneys and investigators charged with the investigation, prosecution and prevention of fraud in state public assistance programs.
Also serving as adviser to the panel is David Lawrence, William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Public Law and Government at the UNC School of Government. Lawrence joined the Institute of Government in 1968. He has written on local government revenues, budgeting and fiscal control, and capital finance. As part of his work in local government law, he has also written on public records, open meetings, governing board procedures, economic development and other topics.
Grayson Kelley, Chief Deputy N.C. Attorney General will serve as counsel to the committee and Liz Riley, deputy legal counsel to the governor, will staff the committee.
The committee’s review will encompass the governor’s office and all cabinet and other administrative offices directly under the governor’s control. The review will include use of state-owned e-mail systems as well as electronic text communications on state-owned or leased wireless devices such as BlackBerry handheld units.
The panel will develop proposals that can be implemented by executive directive or changes in current policy and procedure. If changes in current law are necessary, that too will be addressed. The panel will make a preliminary report to the governor by May 20. Meetings of the committee will be open and it will hold public hearings to get input from the various groups with interest in the issue along with the general public.
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