Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Lincoln County Sheriff's Department Does End Around on State Open Records Law

HAT TIP: Charlotte Observer CLICKHERE

Thanks to a investigative report by the Charlotte Observer we find out that the Lincoln County Sheriff's Department in North Carolina is doing a complete run around with the new law that went into effect that made documents pertaining to suspensions, demotions, and dismissals public.

Here is a few excerpts from the report:

But new Lincoln Sheriff David Carpenter said he plans to continue the department's tradition of notifying fired employees verbally instead of issuing written letters.

Carpenter, who took office last week, promised to comply with the records law, but said "we're not going to generate" new documents to satisfy requests by the public.

The comments come in response to an open records request by The Charlotte Observer, which has asked Lincoln County for five years of disciplinary records for the sheriff's office.

Martha Lide, Lincoln County assistant manager, told the Observer the county has no record of dismissal letters or accompanying documents for sheriff's office employees fired since 2005.

Unlike city police departments and most other government agencies, sheriff offices are under no legal obligation to notify fired workers in writing, officials and criminal justice experts said. No one tracks how many sheriff's departments do not issue dismissal letters, but they said it is not unheard of.

The practice could blunt the impact of the state's personnel records law, which is supposed to increase accountability in government, said Vivian Lord, a criminology professor at UNC Charlotte.

The new law "makes it less likely that they are going to put something down on paper," Lord said.

Beth Grace, executive director of the North Carolina Press Association, questioned whether Lincoln County officials were trying to shield public information from citizens.

It would be interesting to see if our own local sheriff BJ Barnes would comply with a public records request or does he agree with the Lincoln County Sheriff in verbal dismissal, hint hint to the Greensboro News and Record and Joe Killian. If this is par for the course when it comes to complying with this open records request and seeing that some might just have a verbal firing and no documentation to back up the records it might be time for a new law to make everyone have written documentation on these records of suspensions,demotions and dismissals including sheriff's departments all over this great state.

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