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And there isn't a firm reckoning of how many state employees might be using private devices, private messaging on social media accounts and other services to keep in touch with constituents, vendors and fellow bureaucrats.North Carolina's public records law, which was first drafted in the 1930s, certainly covers those short messages even if lawmakers of the Great Depression era or those who undertook more recent revisions didn't anticipate how much the office workers of 2017 would rely on text messaging.
And North Carolina's long-time state auditor urgently sought a meeting with the new governor to explain a damning assessment of state and county social service agencies.But even though texting has become somewhat ubiquitous, it is relatively rare to see those messages turn up in requests for written material about how public business is conducted. The result: Of 19 state departments queried, all were able to provide some sort of answer, even if it was just that their top officials didn’t use text messaging.That's why a group of newspaper and television stations organized at the behest of the North Carolina Open Government Coalition decided to explore how state and local officials would respond to public records request for text messages sent to and from senior leaders for the period spanning Jan. Some provided transcripts or detailed copies complete with keys to who was involved in each conversation, while others simply provided images of the back and forth with little context.But following inquiries from a coalition of news organizations, it's clear that getting access those public records depends largely on the goodwill of those department heads, and requests took many officials by surprise.Environmental Quality Secretary Michael Regan, for example, initially responded to a public records request for two weeks of his text messages by saying he didn't have any for the time period involved.Text messages to and from Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick provided the underpinnings for a Pulitzer Prize-winning series in 2008 by the Detroit Free Press that showed Kilpatrick lied under oath and used public resources to cover up an affair with his chief of staff.
Closer to home, text messages among various high-ranking administration officials in 2014 allowed the Charlotte Observer and The News & Observer of Raleigh to report that former Gov.
None disputed the records should be available to the public.
"Need appt today with Kristi Jones in gov office to deliver HHS report," State Auditor Beth Wood texted two deputies on Jan.
"The work we do is the work of the public, and the work we do is owned by the public," Stein said.
"The public has a right of access to it because that's transparency, that's how you hold a government accountable.
Additional reporting by Kymberli Hagelberg of the Greensboro News & Record, Ann Mc Adams of WECT, and Doug Miller of the Charlotte Observer.