North Carolina's personnel law also extends its secrecy to appointees to state boards and commissions, including powerful ones such as the N.C. Board of Transportation and the UNC Board of Governors.
The law, one of the most secretive among the 50 states, treats these appointees as employees even though they are not paid to serve. As a result, information that might help explain why these people were appointed, such as recommendation letters, is closed off to the public.
Joe Sinsheimer, a Democratic consultant turned government watchdog, said the personnel law's restrictions protect a "pay to play" mentality in state government.
"The formula for getting an appointment to a state board is to raise money for the governor and/or a leader of the legislature," Sinsheimer said. "That formula has been there for 20 years and we are suffering the consequences of inbreeding, because it's the same people over and over getting appointed to the same positions."
Last week, the News & Observer ran Keeping Secrets, a three-part series on the personnel law. It has prompted one lawmaker to draft legislation to make more personnel information public.