Editorial: Sunshine prevailing just barely

May. 14, 2014 @ 11:32 PM

For at least another day, the public’s right to know what its government is doing has stayed in the sun.

Each day the General Assembly is in session, however, could bring other developments.

Senate Bill 287 is currently linked to Mecklenburg and Guilford counties. It would give the option to local governments to post public notices only on government websites.

Tuesday it was calendared for Wednesday’s opening day of the short session. Wednesday, Rep. Tim Moore, chairman of the Rules & Operations Committee, moved it be withdrawn from the calendar and referred to his committee, where it now rests.

SB 287 is a bad bill. Checks and balances we’ve known for more than 200 years would be tossed aside. Government bodies, and that means any beyond the obvious such as city and county lawmakers, would be enabled to do their work away from the public’s eye.

Transparency should not be optional.

We believe passage for these two counties would lead to passage for all.

Consider, for example, the Granville County school board. Currently, despite some public comments, the board is mired in controversy its members created. They’ve done well to request a third-party audit for a sensitive subject — pay to administrators.

They’ve scheduled a called meeting, with plans to go behind closed doors, on Friday at 6 p.m. Any actions they take will have to be in open session.

Yet, if not for the current law, perhaps only the board would have known of the meeting held at the same starting time as the Granville County Relay for Life and the Vance-Granville Community College graduation.

Regardless of their motives, and regardless of attendance that night or any other, the public knows and can keep a mindful eye if it so chooses.

Sens. Trudy Wade of Guilford County and Tamara Barringer of Wake County sponsored SB 287. The Dispatch has respectfully asked both to pull it.

The public’s business should be done in front of the public, in the sunshine, and notices about our business should be put in places where the most people can see them. And that’s not a government website, even in a big city, and especially not in North Carolina’s roughly 85 rural counties.

SB 287 needs to be killed.