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Brunswick County Commissioner Charles Warren, we don’t think you’re being a friend of open government.
We’ve had a lot of questions in the last several months about the transparency involving operations of the Brunswick County Department of Social Services Board.
We’ve questioned decisions about closed sessions, and we’ve been apprehensive about how hush-hush the board has been on the investigation into former director Jamie Orrock.
Every time an issue about transparency comes up, your name isn’t far behind. Yet you are quick to reach out to the media when it benefits you.
Last month you sent a letter to the media and county commissioners chair Bill Sue condemning county attorney Huey Marshall for requesting access to DSS closed-meeting minutes.
Mr. Warren, as the law allows, closed-session meeting minutes are public record as long as their disclosure doesn’t frustrate the purpose of the closed session. Mr. Marshall, whether he is serving a representative of county government or as a taxpaying Brunswick County citizen, has the right to request access to those documents.
So does every other person in Brunswick County.
Why would you, a member of the Brunswick County commissioners and chair of the DSS board, have a problem with that?
Further, it makes no sense to us why you and your DSS board would argue personnel privacy exemptions when it comes to DSS matters, but then you turn around and take issue with Mr. Marshall’s performance in a very public way.
Mr. Marshall is a county employee, one who answers directly to the board of commissioners. If you have an issue with his competency as a county employee, wouldn’t those same personnel exemptions apply to him?
Why do you pick and choose when you’ll be open and transparent?
The perception to the public, whether it’s your intention or not, is that you don’t really care much about North Carolina open meetings and public records laws. That’s not a way we expect an elected official to serve our county. We expect our elected representatives to be versed in open meetings and open records laws and also to champion them for the public.
Anything less is unacceptable.
We’re also disappointed you didn’t join together with your fellow commissioners and step down from the DSS board after other commissioners agreed serving on such boards is a conflict of interest.
The law indicates a county representative on the DSS board can be either a citizen or a county commissioner. It does not mandate a slot be filled with a commissioner, as is mandated for the county’s health board.
In light of this ethics decision agreed upon by your fellow commissioners and based on your previous actions as a representative on the DSS board, we think you should now do the right thing—step down from the DSS board and give someone who believes in open, transparent government a chance to serve.