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ROBBINSVILLE—In a new release of closed session minutes, the Graham County Board of Commissioners recently revealed much of what it talked about in secret between October 2014 and June 2015.

Graham County is Western North Carolina’s least-populated county, but its commissioners hold a relatively large number of closed sessions, a Carolina Public Press investigation found earlier this year.

At the same time, the board appears to be one of the region’s most proactive sharers of what is discussed when it meets in secret.

Under state open meetings law, local government bodies are permitted to meet in closed session and shut the public out to discuss several topics, including personnel issues, economic development incentives, potential property purchases and legal matters, among others.

The law also says that such bodies can release minutes of many of these types of closed meetings, on the condition that doing so would no longer frustrate the purpose of closing a given meeting. Graham’s Board of Commissioners periodically reviews and publicly releases portions of its closed session minutes.

The newly unsealed minutes, which can be read below, summarize the board’s discussions of 22 closed session agenda items during a ninth-month period beginning last October. (See previously released 2014 closed session minutes from Graham, along with other WNC counties, here.)

Wide range of subjects addressed in records

The minutes reflect the wide range of topics, ranging from the momentous to the mundane, that county boards discuss behind closed doors.

Graham’s commissioners held several closed sessions since October to discuss economic incentive offers to companies considering opening a business in the county. In one notable example, on Oct. 20, the board voted to grant tax breaks to Tides and Times, a Charlotte-based lumber company that ultimately agreed to open a facility in Graham that was slated to provide 114 jobs.

According to county-level unemployment rates from June, Graham County had the highest unemployment rate in the state. The data, released by the N.C. Department of Commerce, showed that the county had an unemployment rate of 12.3 percent.

The board discussed several property issues, such as whether to acquire a satellite office in Stecoah for the Graham Sheriff’s Office, a move the board approved.

The commissioners also discussed numerous personnel matters, including a series of hires of county staff members.

In one unusual personnel discussion, the board learned that there were “issues” with a county library employee “spending the nights” at the library, according to the minutes, which note that “the board wanted it known that this type of behavior is not acceptable.”

Graham County Board of Commissioners closed session minutes, Oct. 2014-June 2015 (PDF)
Graham County Board of Commissioners closed session minutes, Oct. 2014-June 2015 (Text)

Jon Elliston

Jon Elliston is the lead contributing open government reporter at Carolina Public Press. Contact him at jelliston@carolinapublicpress.org.

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