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Would you be OK never knowing why Brunswick County Department of Social Services Director Jamie Orrock was fired, even though thousands of taxpayer dollars have since been spent on related matters?
What if Brunswick County government fired DSS-appointed attorney Gary Shipman and you never knew about it? Would you have been outraged to find out weeks, months or maybe even years later how much money he was expecting the county to pay him post-termination?
Would you be comfortable knowing that county commissioner and DSS board chair Charles Warren was taking the official—and only—audio recordings of DSS meetings into his possession and out of county offices without the public knowing?
What if the town of Carolina Shores never had open discussions in public meetings, but instead came to consensus about all town business through e-mail polling?
How would you feel if you found out the town of Calabash made decisions about how your tax dollars were going to be spent only behind closed doors?
Would you be outraged if you had never found out Sunset Beach’s chief building inspector had been under investigation by the state, even though town officials knew?
These are some of the many instances in which The Brunswick Beacon has fought for the public’s right to know—the right of every citizen to have access to public records and to make sure officials make decisions about public business in the public.
Without filing open records requests, making calls to attorneys, fighting against improperly withheld public records and improperly closed meetings, there is a lot that would have happened in the past year—funded by your hard-working tax dollars—that you would have never known about.
That’s why we take this time annually to join others across the nation as we celebrate Sunshine Week.
Sunshine Week is a national initiative created to promote discussions about the importance of freedom of information and open government. The Beacon has been participating in the effort since 2008, and we’re proud our work in 2008 and 2010 was honored with North Carolina’s Henry Lee Weathers Freedom of Information Award.
But we don’t do this for the recognition. We do this because we know if we have this much difficulty getting access to information that is rightfully ours, so do you.
It’s our intention to keep fighting, to keep going after public officials who act as gatekeepers until they break down their walls and readily hand over information that belongs to the good people of Brunswick County.
Most of all, we hope our efforts empower you to do the same. You don’t have to have a journalism degree or a press pass to do the things we do. Public records are yours. You also have the right to hear your elected representatives make official decisions in public. We hope you’ll fight for your rights frequently.
Read through this issue of the Beacon and follow subsequent stories in coming weeks. We’ll give you tips and information on how you can access public records and ensure your elected officials are meeting properly.
Educate yourself about public records, open meetings, what you have the right to ask for and how to do it. Then stop by your local town hall or pop into a government building and ask for the information that’s yours.
Let us know how your government is doing. Remember, they work for you.