Efforts to reduce or expand the amount of public information from state and local personnel records aren't likely to succeed as the legislative session comes to a close.
Ray Martin, a spokesman for Senate leader Phil Berger, a Rockingham County Republican, said the personnel law legislation "likely won't be resuscitated now, at least before we adjourn."
Two bills -- one in the House; the other in the Senate -- would have expanded the public personnel information to include explanations of disciplinary actions and employee performance. They also included penalties for government officials who denied records that were clearly public. The bills were supported by the N.C. Press Association, of which we are a member.
The other bill would have prevented the release of salary histories before Oct. 1, 2007, as well as any dismissal letters or the reporting of dismissals, suspensions or demotions for disciplinary reasons prior to Oct. 1, 2010. It also would have allowed governments to not have to write dismissal letters for employees such as sheriff's deputies who can be fired at will without explanation.
That bill, filed by state Sen. Pete Brunstetter, a Winston-Salem Republican, came at the behest of representatives for county commissioners, sheriffs and school boards.
None of the bills made it out of committee.
While the two bills expanding personnel information appeared dead earlier this month after Crossover Week -- the legislature's self-imposed deadline for passing legislation out of either chamber -- Brunstetter's bill appeared on the Senate Finance Committee's agenda at least twice this week, only to be removed before being heard.
On Tuesday, state Sen. Fletcher Hartsell, a Concord Republican, said Brunstetter's bill was not likely to be heard by his committee.
Last year, state lawmakers expanded the amount of personnel information that should be public, including full salary histories and each suspension, demotion and promotion. Suspensions, demotions and dismissals for disciplinary reasons have to be identified.
Governments also have to release dismissal letters created before the law's start date, and must now produce dismissal letters that explain why an employee was fired. Those letters are also public.
The changes followed a three-part series we did, Keeping Secrets, that showed North Carolina had one of the most secretive personnel laws in the nation.