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Perdue's personnel law reform legislation

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Gov. Bev Perdue's office made public this week draft legislation of personnel law reforms that would make state employees' salary and position histories public and allow the State Treasurer to report the agency for which retirees had previously worked.

The draft legislation also requires the release of personnel records for employees or appointees convicted of felonies. Those records would be limited to information related to the criminal conduct.

Her legislation would also require public boards and commissions to maintain and make public basic personnel information on appointees, such as name, year of birth, and dates of appointment or reappointment.

Perdue limited her legislation to state employees. Her spokeswoman, Chrissy Pearson, suggested in an e-mail message that we talk to the N.C. League of Municipalities or the N.C. Association of County Commissioners "about any push to include local employees."

Neither the league or the association have expressed an interest to change the personnel law for local employees. The league's executive director, Ellis Hankins, has said he likes the law the way it is.

But some of the former employees' whose pay or behavior have created an uproar worked for local governments, and therefore would not come under Perdue's legislation. Among those former employees are two of the biggest recipients of public pensions, Charles Franklin and Billy Williams, and Jessica Wishnask, a former teacher whose suspensions for improper conduct with a student weren't disclosed until she was caught having sex with him and sent to prison.

Pearson said Perdue would be open to legislation that provided more transparency in personnel matters involving local employees.

Perdue's legislation is the second to emerge after we reported earlier this year that North Carolina has one of the nation's most secretive personnel laws. The public is limited to current basic information about state and local employees, such as their current salaries and positions.

The law makes it difficult to track big pay increases or questionable job moves, or to find out about improper hires or the details regarding disciplined or fired employees.

In recent weeks, we have written about how the law is also making it hard to determine how public retirees' pensions have been calculated. Perdue's legislation is intended to make that process transparent. Her staff has been working with state Sen. Josh Stein, a Raleigh Democrat.

The state Senate appears to be taking the lead on passing legislation that would make personnel matters more transparent. Senate Majority Leader Martin Nesbitt, an Asheville Democrat, said Monday that his judiciary committee plans to roll out an ethics package next week that would make salary histories public.

Documents:
perduebill.doc
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About the blogger

Dan Kane has covered local and state government and N.C. State University at The News & Observer since joining our staff in 1997. Most recently, he and J. Andrew Curliss teamed to report “The Missing Money,” a three-part series that explored the state's growing number of tax breaks and the related rising revenue loss. Kane's reporting also exposed one of the worst academic fraud cases in U.S. higher education history at UNC-Chapel Hill. Contact him at dan.kane@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4861
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