Providing text messages to public ‘a learning process’ for local governments


Editor’s note: This report is the first in a two-story project for Sunshine Week that was produced by a collaboration of North Carolina media organizations. Read the second part here: Text messaging records offer glimpses into how state government works.

As Wake County Commissioner Sig Hutchinson traded text messages with former county school chairman Tom Benton in January, the pair groused about the latest public pronouncement from Sheriff Donnie Harrison.

Brownie Newman text screenshot

Image shows part of a screen shot from texts exchanged by Buncombe County Commission Chair Brownie Newman, which Carolina Public Press requested as part of the 2017 Sunshine Week Project.

Benton took exception to Harrison suggesting the Wake County Public School System should create its own police force rather than rely on school resource officers supplied by the sheriff’s office and local police departments.

The “sheriff (is) at it again. Bypass policy makers and go straight to the press,” Benton wrote. Hutchinson replied, “Yep exactly what I talked with him about last time as well.”

Those were among the dozens of messages Hutchinson and other Wake County commissioners sent or received from Jan. 9 through Jan.