Caldwell County is not so far from Watauga County as the crow flies, but it some ways it’s closer than ever.
That they’re close physically is a given, but Caldwell County has something else in common with Watauga, as well as with the other 98 North Carolinian counties: the ability for local governance to legally shield the disciplinary records of those in state and local taxpayer-paid jobs.
We mention Caldwell County because of the action the county board there took on May 21. On that day, the Caldwell County Board of Commissioners held a special meeting and voted to dismiss County Manager Stan Kiser, effective immediately.
Kiser had served the county since October 2009, and at the time of his termination made an annual salary of $133,980. We mention this because the county gave no reason for the firing, no notice of any disciplinary action, and if the board releases Kiser without cause he will be owed 24 months of salary: $267,960.
If this happens, the taxpayers of Caldwell will have gifted a quarter of a million dollars to an employee they effectively, if representatively, fired — without officially knowing why they did so.
That’s good work if you can get it.
But it’s a raw deal for Caldwell taxpayers and for the taxpayers of every other North Carolina county should they find themselves in similar situations.
Senate Bill 355 would right this wrong. The Government Transparency Act of 2021 would allow the public to see not only why Kiser was fired, but also provide information about the reasons for things such as hirings, promotions and demotions.
Perhaps you’re thinking that such a common sense law was already on the books in North Carolina. But you would be wrong. You would be thinking of one or more of the 35 states in our nation that already boast such taxpayer protection — not the Old North State.
Sadly, common sense does not always rule the day in Raleigh. Even now there are opponents mounting misinformation campaigns about what would be sound public policy that every taxpayer should applaud.
Unremarkably, those most loudly arousing fearmongering and deception are affiliated with groups that, you might have guessed, are tied to state and local taxpayer-paid jobs.
That’s unremarkable, but disconcerting because even those who are paid by taxpayers also pay taxes themselves. You would think that improvements in the ability for all of us to know about malfeasance in taxpayer-paid personnel records would hit everyone close to home.
Sort of like the proximity between Watauga and Caldwell counties.