End state employee secrecy

By Ryan Graczkowski

Seems like there are more and more perks to working for the state.

The News and Observer ran an article Monday describing the secrecy laws concerning state personnel. The policy in question shields from public view all but the most trivial information, regarding an employee’s hiring date, current position, the most recent pay changes, and whether or not their job has changed.

In short, we are allowed to see a Facebook page.

Maybe that was enough once.

But when we end up with police officers like Michael Steele who abuse their power to solicit sex from illegal immigrants, it seems logical to question a system that makes it possible. Especially when one considers that this isn’t an isolated incident. There have been other police incidents, and incidents concerning teachers, and the public has been left in the dark concerning any disorders or aspects of personal history that could have been considered as warning signs.

The state’s justification?

According to Ellis Hankins, “There are just sound personnel administration reasons for keeping some of those disciplinary actions and the reasons for the disciplinary actions confidential.”

Really?

For some actions, sure.

But when the consequences of those disciplinary actions are visited on us, the people, something has to give.

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0 Responses to End state employee secrecy

  1. Richard

    When I worked for the feds. Any type of discipline was public knowledge but you had to ask for it. UNLESS you were one of the chosen ones and then you could go through a person files without questions. We must have transparency in government in a lot of matters. If they can hide crimminal activities, what kind of government do we have. The one we have.

  2. I disagree.

    I think the N&O wants easy access to state docs in part to make up for lack of investigative or real reporting. These are human personnel files. Do you think you are entitled to personnel files for private companies?

    Most state employees are just people with jobs. We need to have state employees, and contrary to what those of us in the private sector often think, their jobs aren’t as cushy as we think. Nor does a state job under most circumstances amount to consent to be held accountable for daily operations in the court of public opinion.

    It’s easy for a newspaper to rile readers up based on mistakes or misjudgments by a person on the public payroll. But in general, the N&O lacks the energy, inventiveness or moxie to go after the more important issues that require real investigating, like the behavior of bad actors in the private sector.

    While the issue of the police officer is troubling, note that we place this same level of trust on the private sector every day, we seek less and less accountability for its employees.

    This is a short-cut to cover inadequate reporting. It’s also bad policy.

    • Ryan

      I will respectfully maintain my stance.

      Private companies have a vested interest in making sure that their employees have a good, clean record. They have a bottom line to worry about. Having bad employees will affect that.

      The state does not have this problem. Short of revolution or the collapse of government, they’re still going to get our taxes and they’re still going to pursue their goals. Whether they have good employees or not isn’t going to affect that.

      I have friends who work for the state, who have very little to do with the public at large. And I can see what you’re saying as regards those employees, bureaucrats and the like. But when we’re talking about teachers, police, emergency services personnel – people who we trust with our safety and our lives – how can you say that we don’t need to know?

      I mean, I just want to be sure that the money I’m paying as the ‘cost of living in a modern society’ is being spent well and not on salary inflation or bad employees. I’m a share-holder in the state. The state owes it to me – and you – to be transparent about what it’s doing.

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