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Brunswick County Town Halls

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By Staff Brunswick Beacon

We visited six town halls in Brunswick County seeking information about town employees included in the public records law.

Shallotte Town Hall

What we asked for: Salaries for town employees.

How they did: The town clerk immediately furnished the request at no cost.

What they said: Not every town employee in Shallotte is trained in public records laws, but “we train the ones responsible for it,” town administrator Paul Sabiston said.

Those charged with that responsibility are “very familiar with it,” he added. “We try and control that by having two or three people in control of the documents. They know how to comply, and we make sure they comply promptly.”

Calabash Town Hall

What we asked for: A copy of a job description for the town clerk and the salary for the position.

How they did: A town commissioner demanded to know who was requesting the information, saying she “just wanted to know.” All information was furnished: a job description and a salary range for the clerk’s position at no cost.

What they said: As to why a commissioner demanded to know who we were, mayor Anthony Clemmons responded: “I have no knowledge on that. We certainly like to be friendly and personal, and I would think anyone would introduce themselves as a matter of protocol.”

Clemmons added the town administrator trains town personnel about public records laws.

Every employee at town hall is capable of furnishing information requested by the public, he said.

“I have no doubt in my mind that they would not comply with FOIA,” Clemmons said. “We always strive toward improving our staff in all areas and [public records] would just be one of them.”

Sunset Beach Town Hall

What we asked for: A copy of the job description and salary for the town administrator.

How they did: The town clerk furnished the information, job description and a salary range for the position, at no cost, and did not ask the person requesting the information who they were.

What they said: Sunset Beach Assistant Town Administrator Larry Crim said town employees are trained in public records laws, adding staff turnover is “very minimal.”

Every employee knows the law and is capable of furnishing public records, Crim said.

Holden Beach Town Hall

What we asked for: Salary and job descriptions of the town manager, police chief and planning director or building inspector.

How they did: The town employee told the person requesting the information the town clerk was out for two days, and said to call back later. The employee did not furnish any documents related to the request. A Beacon employee failed to call the agency back.

What they said: Holden Beach Town Administrator David Hewett asked whether the request for records at town hall was put in writing.

“By all means, I’ll get [the information] for you,” Hewett said this week. “I just need you to tell me specifically what record it is you would like to have.”

“You all need to be mindful of what type of record it is that you want so people charged with keeping those records can make sure they’re meeting what the customer needs,” he added.

Hewett said the town doesn’t have a very big staff, and a receptionist “isn’t human resources. It’s not her job” to provide the requested information for the salaries and job descriptions of himself, the town police and fire chiefs and the building/planning director.

“She directed you to the office of primary responsibility, and you neglected to follow up with her,” Hewett said.

In addition, he said when personnel records are requested, “there’s only certain parts that can be released, and you should know that.”

Ocean Isle Beach Town Hall

What we asked for: A salary and job description of the town administrator, police chief and planning director or building inspector.

How they did: The town clerk told the person requesting the information the town administrator’s assistant was busy and a town employee would contact the requestor later by cell phone. The information was faxed to the requesting person four business days later.

What they said: Ocean Isle Beach Town Administrator Daisy Ivey and town clerk Sue Stuhr responded. A Beacon employee made the request Thursday, March 6. It was referred to the human resources department on Friday [March 7].

“She said she would call back tomorrow,” recalled Stuhr. “I said ‘Do you have a phone number?’ and I took her number.”

The human resources employee received the information the following day, and Stuhr said she didn’t follow up with the request because she thought the person requesting the information was going to call back and come pick it up.

The following week, Stuhr asked the human resources staff if the person had received the requested information, and she was told the person had not called back.

Stuhr called the Beacon employee on Wednesday of the following week and faxed over the information.

“It went to the H.R. department on Friday, and we called Wednesday with the information,” added Ivey. “I don’t think two business days was unreasonable.”

Asked how long it normally takes for citizens to receive information they request, Ivey said it depends on what is requested, but town officials always try to provide it “in a reasonable amount of time like it says in the general statutes.”

Carolina Shores Town Hall

What we asked for: A job description and salary for the town administrator.

How they did: The town employee furnished the person requesting the information with a copy of an employment ad for the town’s assistant administrator.

What they said: Town administrator Linda Hercane said town employees are trained on public record laws, but a temporary employee was working the front desk when we requested the information.

“The town clerk does go to schooling to become a municipal clerk. I’m sure the Sunshine Laws are shared there,” Herncane said, adding the town clerk shares this information with other town staff.

Herncane said she would talk to staff about public records laws, and said the employee was not clear about what the person seeking the information wanted.

“It sounded like he wanted the job,” she said.