Raleigh council needs more openness

September 11, 2013 

Knock, knock. Who’s there? It’s the public, and we’d like to come into the Raleigh City Council meeting.

North Carolina’s open meetings law states the following when it comes to reasons why public agencies may go behind closed doors:

“A public body may hold a closed session and exclude the public only when a closed session is required ... to consider the qualifications, competence, performance, character, fitness, conditions of appointment, or conditions of initial employment of an individual public officer or employee or prospective public officer or employee. General personnel policy issues may not be considered in a closed session.”

There’s no way to read that and justify what Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane did recently when, to avoid a potentially contentious public discussion among council members, she closed a meeting. McFarlane justified the action by saying personnel matters were being discussed. But the matter was the scheduling of a meeting to discuss finalists for the position of Raleigh city manager. It’s a stretch to call that a personnel matter.

It’s also frustrating that the council is declining to make finalists for the position available to the public, which was done in the case of the recent appointments of a Wake County school superintendent and a Raleigh police chief.

Openness boosts confidence in public officials. Closed doors breed suspicion.

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