It’s Sunshine Week, the annual observance where the media touts the importance of public records and transparency. Often that takes the form of stories highlighting situations where some entity is refusing to release records.
But here on the Raleigh city government beat, I don’t have much to complain about. In other communities, I’ve had to make multiple phone calls to get a simple town council meeting agenda. Raleigh has those available online for nearly every elected or appointed board you can think of.
The city has won awards for open government, and leaders are working on a new Open Raleigh platform to have more data online.
I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how forthcoming city officials here can be with records. Last week, I was trying to confirm a union group’s claim that Raleigh’s Civil Service Commission – the appointed board that hears employee appeals – almost never rules in favor of an employee.
I expected the board’s actions to be largely secretive – the blanket “it’s a confidential personnel matter” response often provided by government agencies. But after a quick call to the city clerk’s office, assistant deputy clerk Ralph Puccini had five years of meeting minutes in my email inbox within the hour.
That allowed our story to have solid facts, in turn allowing our readers to have an informed debate on whether or not the Civil Service Commission needs an overhaul.