The News & Observer and other media plaintiffs waged long battles over the reluctance of the administration of Gov. Pat McCrory to respond promptly and fully to public records requests. In legal filings, the newspaper had argued that under McCrory, the state “regularly and repeatedly” violated public records laws by not responding to requests in a timely fashion and by charging unnecessary fees for the records. Plaintiffs also said that under the administration some records were concealed, records that clearly should have been public.
It’s a sad state of things when public officials eschew their responsibility to do business, the people’s business, openly. The state now has agreed to pay legal fees for The N&O, The Charlotte Observer and other plaintiffs in the amount of $250,000 to compensate for the expense of a battle for openness that never should have had to have been waged. This is not a flattering part of McCrory’s rather anemic legacy.
Thankfully, things have changed with a new governor. Gov. Roy Cooper, a former state attorney general, has long supported open government and his administration is promising to provide records quickly and efficiently and without argument, which is how things should be. Of course any governor has a right to argue and negotiate when he or she believes it is in the public interest to do so. But good government is open government, and anything less raises suspicions on the part of the public that someone in government is trying to hide something, and that hurts the credibility of any government agency or official.