Time, place of candidate interviews should be public, attorney general says

NORTH CAROLINA — University of North Carolina officials should have notified the public when they interviewed candidates in their search for a new president, the state attorney general’s office said last week.

University officials are not required to hold open meetings to interview candidates under state open government laws, but they must notify the public of the place and time of those meetings, Attorney General Roy Miller told schools in an advisory legal opinion, according to a local paper.

“You can have the whole thing in closed session, but the public is entitled to know when and where the meeting is,” UNC-Chapel Hill government professor David Lawrence told The News & Observer.

Leslie Winner, general counsel for the university, told The Associated Press she followed old advice from the attorney general’s office when allowing the committee to keep the meetings private.

The search committee held interviews on Sept. 25 and Sept. 26 in Charlotte after committee members said they would not hold further meetings until early October, according to The News & Observer.

The committee selected former Senate candidate Erskine Bowles as its only final candidate, electing him president on Oct. 3.

Other candidates for the job were not revealed despite an April vote by the UNC Board of Governors to disclose the names of finalists, according to the newspaper article.

“I want to know who Erskine Bowles beat out,” UNC-Chapel Hill media law professor Cathy Packer told The News & Observer. “I like him. I’m glad he’s going to be the president. But I want to know how good the competition was.”

by Kyle McCarthy, SPLC staff writer