A lobbyist for school boards says a public records request by a Gaston County newspaper illustrates the difficulties state and local governments face in complying with the new personnel law.
Leanne Winner, the lobbyist for the N.C. School Boards Association, said the Gaston Gazette requested the "entire history" of every employee in the Gaston County school district.
"That's a huge amount of work," she said.
Except the school district's spokeswoman, Bonnie Reidy, and the Gaston Gazette reporter who wrote the story, Amanda Memrick, say that's not what was requested. The newspaper asked for all suspensions, demotions and dismissals for the 2010 calendar year.
"She's a little off on that one," Memrick said.
"We didn't have any problems with that," Reidy said.
The request produced a news report showing that nine school employees had been dismissed for disciplinary reasons, including a bus driver who left the bus running with students aboard, and a teacher assistant who filled out time sheets showing she was arriving to work earlier and leaving later than she actually was.
The report was one of several the Gazette published during Sunshine Week that made use of the new personnel law to tell readers about fired or disciplined employees in local government. The law, passed last year, makes public all salary and position histories, including suspensions, demotions and promotions. It also makes public dismissal letters, and requires governments to identify suspensions and demotions that were the result of disciplinary action.
The school board association supports state legislation that would prevent at least some of the dismissal letters' release because they had been written before Oct. 1, 2010, which is the date the new law made all the records public, according to the state Attorney General's office. The bill would also limit salary and position information back to Oct. 1, 2007. Two other bills would expand the amount of personnel information to be made public.