Carteret County Commissioners have unfairly and disingenuously made N.C. Representative Pat McElraft part of their efforts to take total control of the county’s communications to taxpayers and residents by claiming that she is complicit in the county’s participation in H.B. 51.

Last week the commissioners asked N.C. Representative Howard Penny, (R), Harnett County, to add Carteret County to a “local bill” he sponsored that will allow the county to rely solely on its website for the publication of all public notices. Current legislation requires counties, municipalities, and other government departments to publish public notices in newspapers that meet certain state mandated requirements to include periodicals of general paid circulation.

Using a subtle structure in the state’s legislative bill process, several Republican freshmen in the N.C. House of Representatives created two local bills, H.B. 35 and H.B. 51. Under legislative rules local bills may not include more than 14 counties and if the aggregate total of local bills seeking the same purpose is less than 49, then the local bills do not have to be signed by the governor which of course means they won’t face a possible veto.

Historically “local bills” have required approval of the legislative delegation, both House and Senate, of the counties named in the bill in order to get final approval by the General Assembly.

That is not the case with H.B. 51 which includes, Beaufort, Bertie, Camden, Chowan, Craven, Gates, Harnett, Hertford, Pasquotank, Perquimans, Tyrrell, Washington counties and now Carteret County.

Rep. McElraft, serving her final term representing N.C. House District 13, Carteret and Jones counties, a district she has served successfully for the past 12 years, has not signed on the bill and in fact has told Carteret County commissioners she doesn’t support the bill.

When asked about this legislation she stated that she was resisting pressure from the county commissioners to add the county to H.B. 51. “Here’s my argument.  You are asking seniors who are used to getting all their public information in one online visit to the newspaper to go to each town website and county website daily to make sure they don’t miss something significant. This is not public friendly,” Rep. McElraft explained in a text message.

County manager, Tommy Burns, who previously worked in the Harnett County government, refuted Rep. McElraft’s statement. He told the News-Times (story appears on page 1A) that moving public notices to a county controlled website has been a goal of Mrs. McElraft’s for years. And because she would not stop Rep. Penny from adding the county to the bill this constituted support.

Rep. McElraft has consistently opposed moving public notices to government controlled websites and even officially expressed her opposition in writing this time as well.

It is obvious that the county is determined to take total control of its communications and messaging to the public that they will do anything, including working around the county’s legislative representative to get this done. The topic has never been presented in a public meeting for discussion or a vote. Its sole disclosure, based on review of meeting minutes, was a letter sent to the N.C. Association of County Commissioners noting “the right to meet legal requirements of public notices by posting these notices on the County’s website” is one of the county’s goals for the 2021-22 fiscal year.

To construe Rep. McElraft’s decision to not stop Rep. Penny, as tacit support for the bill, is unfair and at the very least disingenuous. She does not support the bill. She has opposed earlier attempts to give county governments total control over their public notice responsibilities and did so again this year.

Not only have the county commissioners tried to force Rep. McElraft into a corner, they’ve tried to embarrass her for caring first about her primary constituents- the residents, young and old, and the taxpayers, both full and part-time, who elected her to assure that government does not run roughshod over them.

Throwing Mrs. McElraft “under the bus” by claiming she has supported the county’s efforts because she didn’t force her will on another legislator, who discourteously ignored her opposition, shows bad form on the part of the county commissioners.

This proves that the county will do anything necessary, including bringing into question a legislator’s integrity, to take total control of providing and delivering the information and notices that taxpayers and residents have a right to know. We are already seeing the results of this in the private sector as we watch the digital behemoths, Google, Twitter, Facebook and Amazon determine what we read on the internet and when. Our county commissioners are now taking a page from their playbook to do the same thing at the local level.

(9) comments

DeadBolt

Seems like a non functional entity, lets dissolve them. (and no, not replace them at all, ever).

mpjeep

Public notices, printed by third parties like Newspapers, have served a vital role in informing people about the activities of their government.

These public notices keep our government officials “A Little” more honest and less deceptive.

Newspapers are Permanent records, but the government website may not be by leaving out critical information or making last-minute electronic changes that are missed by the public. We must have government accountability and transparency.

The more we know about our public officials the better off we are. We can’t be assured they will keep us in the loop.

This is one of the few times I agree with Governor Cooper, who is against these bills, but some lawmakers have figured out how to get around his veto. They will get around us as well if we let them.

As I see it, this move will make the public less informed about current government issues.

DeadBolt

The current 'gov' should know, he's been engaging in one for a bit, however Jeep, you are correct in your logic. They could have just as easy simply 'provided' another option as in the website, and continued on their merry way.

Sandman

Once again a display of lack of consideration for the very people who elected them to do what’s right for the residents of Carteret County by keeping public notices private. What are you all afraid of, the people rejecting your ideas?

dc

Looks like dictatorial control is becoming embedded at every level of govt. When someone like feminist author and ex-Clinton adviser, Naomi Wolf, warns of totalitarianism under Biden then even the leftists better wake up. Unless, of course, that's what they want and why they support his agenda. It seems many Rs are getting on the band wagon. If Naomi has awaken to the wokeness the pretend conservatives need some tutoring.

DeadBolt

People here really need to review the entire form of the county. These elected officials are acting as legislative , and executive in tandem. Its obvious that over the years these positions have become corrupt, in that favors are the norm, IMO. (if it were up to me, these positions would be eliminated for a county manager, and an accountant ) ie: the only unincorporated areas may benefit from this form of top down practice, but the towns do not. Its actually very redundant with all these different opinion's being able to effect tens of thousands of folks with the stroke of a pen. Here are 2 forms that are a bit more streamlined.

Commission-administrator: The elected commissioners appoint a separate professional administrator who carries out policies, hires and fires employees, and prepares a budget for the commission's approval.

Council-executive: Voters elect one person as county executive along with a council that serves as the county legislative body. In some areas, the executive can veto laws enacted by the council and exercise other executive powers.

pops

Now let's take a little preview of what comes next. I don't know, perhaps you already have this out East...

When this Yankee was recruited to NC 25+ years ago, the Charlotte paper had a local branch for our town. Their coverage was actually decent, but discontinued years ago. The local rag never was much beyond the mouthpiece of the local good ol' boys club. Still isn't. I've seen nothing to suggest a reporter would be allowed in a city or county meeting. All of that 'open meeting' stuff is supposedly online, but they are artists at concealment. Publicly viewable material on the website is limited to consent agendas (mention by name of all the issues pre-decided in the back room) and carefully written 'summaries' of what may have transpired during actual meetings. Which is to say NOTHING! Actual minutes and discussion are not posted - in no way available on line - that I can find...

I've discovered this over the last couple of years, as I sought to find out how and when certain things happened. Since nothing of substance is actually posted, nothing is searchable. The only way one might follow or research an issue is through mass request of information. (At least in theory. I never coughed up the $$ per page fees to find out.)

I would expect this situation to be apolitical; the same regardless of which party was in control. However, the repubs have been solidly in control here for the last 25 years, so I can't prove that hypothesis.

Suppose the only recourse is to regularly attend those meetings and share what you learn. Pity. We once paid (helped pay) people to do that for us - every time we paid a subscription or bought an issue on the stand. When your government communications go exclusively online, you'll have... what we have here! Congrats!

dc

"There's something happening here". By Ned Cosby. A compact history of how far we haven't come.

drewski

An objective reporter sitting in on town and county meetings? asking questions and reporting on the answers?

Be still my heart.

Welcome to the discussion.

As a privately owned web site, we reserve the right to edit or remove comments that contain spam, advertising, vulgarity, threats of violence, racism, anti-Semitism, or personal/abusive/condescending attacks on other users or goading them. The same applies to trolling, the use of multiple aliases, or just generally being a jerk. Enforcement of this policy is at the sole discretion of the site administrators and repeat offenders may be blocked or permanently banned without warning.