WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) – New Hanover County Commission Chairman Jonathan Barfield sent out an e-mail tonight to constituents regarding our story about making commissioners’ cell phone records public.
Even though the county bought commissioners the phone and pays each $75 per month in tax payer money, and even though County Attorney Wanda Copely told us the county bought them the phones so they could conduct county business, because Barfield also uses the phone for personal business running his real estate company, he says turning over his records is “going too far.”
He says since his family’s cell phone numbers and information would also be on the records, he worries for their safety. He says he talked with Copely, who told him he didn’t have to turn over personal information.
But that’s where things get sticky. Commissioners would be able to go through and black out any and all information they deemed “personal” before turning over their records since they use the cell phone for both personal and county use.
Here’s what Commissioner Barfield wrote in his e-mail tonight:
Commissioners Cell Phones Public or Private
Below is a story that is posted on WWAY TV 3’s website concerning County Commissioners cell phones. I was contacted today by a reporter wanting to know my initial thoughts and my initial thoughts and comment was that was going too far. My concern was for my wife and children and their safety if all numbers on my cell phone bill were open to the public. After talking with our County Attorney I understand that the protocol is to black out all personal numbers and calls, and leave any call that may have been county related. For me that is a tall order to try to comprehend which numbers were county related or not. For me the easiest thing to do is to black out my families numbers and those readily available that I know were and let all of the others stand. The county does offer a $75.00 per month stipend to offset the calls that we receive on our phones for county business; this includes emails so I have no problem again opening up those numbers to the media. The question that I have is what does that mean to you the citizens of New Hanover County who want to contact your commissioners via telephone; it simply means that your numbers will be open to all who want to see them, including any media outlet. My question is, is that what you want? I would love to hear from you as there are over 3000 people who receive my E-Newsletter. I have been an advocate for making government as transparent as possible, but I also believe there are limits as well that must and should be respected as it related to the safety and welfare of family members especially children.