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News Archive

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  • Legislative updates - 2015

    This page will be updated periodically with the status of bills currently in the General Assembly that could affect government transparency. The General Assembly has created six new records exemptions so far. 

  • Judge: Hildebran violated Open Meetings Law, but town's decision stands

    Community activists filed a lawsuit earlier this year against Hildebran alleging the Burke County town violated several laws, including the open meetings law, in deciding to tear down an old school. Following a trial, Superior Court Judge Joe Crosswhite ruled the town council violated the Open Meetings Law but the violation did not effect the board's decision to demolish the school. 

  • Coalition of media, public interest groups sue McCrory Administration

    A coalition of media outlets and public policy groups filed a public records lawsuit this week against Gov. Pat McCrory and eight of his cabinet secretaries over the executive branch's response to public records requests. The allegations include excessive "service charge" fees, delays of more than a year, and providing incomplete records.   

  • Court of Appeals clarifies when closed session minutes for personnel discussions are public

    The Court of Appeals Tuesday provided significant guidance for trial courts reviewing disputes over access to closed session minutes. The court also clarified that when  closed sessions are held for personnel that any policy or political discussions will be public. The decision came in a case brought by the Times-News of Burlington against the Alamance-Burlington Board of Education. 

  • Budget bill would expand terrorism exemption 

    The Senate's amendments to the House's budget bill include a significant expansion of the exemption to the public records law that is often referred to as the "terrorism exemption." 

  • UNC Chapel Hill Foundation files IRS disclosure for first time in 8 years

    The UNC Chapel Hill Foundation, which manages $352 million of the university's funds, recently filed a Form 990 with the IRS for 2013-14 for the first time since 2007. The foundation had claimed exemption from the IRS' reporting requirements as a government affiliated entity. Chancellor Folt announced last fall that the foundation would return to the practice of filing disclosures. 

  • Charlotte Observer, national media outlets seek court records in David Petraeus case

    Retired General David Petraeus pleaded guilty in Charlotte last week to leaking classified materials to his mistress and biographer. The sentencing report, which is typically public, was sealed in Petraeus' case. The Charlotte Observer, Associated Press, Bloomberg, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, New York Times,  NPR, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal joined together to request the documents be made public. 

  • Police video exemption passes House

    A bill that creates a broad, new exemption for videos collected by police body-worn cameras and dashboard cameras passed the N.C. House today 115-2. The revised bill gives discretion to police departments on withholding video from dashboard cameras and body cameras. It also makes clear the videos are not subject to personnel privacy rules. 

  • Bill would allow release of police body-worn camera vidoes, wouldn't require it

    A House Bill filed Tuesday would make clear in the Public Records Act that law enforcement agencies have discretion to release body-worn camera video. Some agencies believe they are prohibited by personnel privacy protections. The law would not require that the videos be released. 

  • Court of Appeals hears case on closed meeting minutes

    A three-judge panel of the N.C. Court of Appeals heard oral arguments Monday in a public records dispute over minutes of closed sessions held by the Alamance-Burlington School System Board of Education. The board has declined to release un-redacted minutes of closed sessions for personnel purposes when it met to discuss the departure and $200,000 severance package of former Superintendent Lillie Cox. The Times-News filed a lawsuit to gain access. 

  • Legislative committee on transparency, more exemptions proposed in bills introduced at House filing deadline

    Wednesday was the deadline for members of the N.C. House of Representatives to file bills for the 2015 General Assembly. Like the Senate deadline last week, the House deadline attracted a number of bills effecting transparency, including a proposal for a joint legislative commission to study transparency improvements. House members also proposed two new exemptions. 

  • Filing deadline leads to flurry of bills affecting transparency

    More than a dozen bills introduced in the final hours before Thursday's filing deadline would affect transparency in North Carolina. They include eight new records exemptions, a pair of new transparency initiatives, several clarifications on who is subject to the public records law and a special rule that allows law enforcement personnel to have certain personal information removed form government websites. 

  • Senate bill would substantially change records law

    A bill filed Thursday in the Senate would limit the right of access created by the Public Records Act to "citizens" of North Carolina. The law currently allows access for "any person" regardless of whether they are state residents. 

  • Civitas files public records lawsuit against Alamance Board of Elections

    The Civitas Institute filed a public records lawsuit this week against the Alamance County Board of Elections after the county attorney insisted that a representative of the group inspect records in person before copies would be made. The lawsuit raises the question of whether a government agency putting additional conditions on a records request prior to fulfilling it amounts to a refusal. 

  • Sunshine Week daily news roundup - Thursday, March 19

    The results of a multi-newsroom public records audit are in. Led by WRAL's public records team, six news outlets asked state and local government officials for the same documents to see how quickly different agencies complied. Also, the NFL files a lawsuit against court officials to get access to records in Greg Hardy case.

  • Sunshine Week daily news roundup - Wednesday March 18

    Today's Sunshine Week news includes a Salisbury Post look at closed sessions, a WRAL story on how to obtain military records, a pair of Q&A sessions with N.C. Open Government Coalition director Jonathan Jones and StarNews Executive Editor Pam Sander explaining the importance of records requests to the newspaper. 

  • Sunshine Week news roundup - Tuesday, March 17
    Sunshine Week is well underway, events are happening across the state, and media outlets are publishing stories that highlight "your right to know" how government is working. Today's coverage leads off with several stories about Sunshine Day in Durham and a look at using LobbyGuard machines to screen who enters a public meeting. And The Gaston Gazette has an open government quiz.


  • Sunshine Week news roundup - Monday March 16

    Today is Sunshine Day in Durham. We continue our daily wrapup of Sunshine Week related news and views from across the state. Today's highlights include a story on economic development incentive records from The Charlotte Observer and editorials from several newspapers. 

  • Inaugural Sunshine Award winners announced

    At Sunshine Day in Durham, the N.C. Open Government Coalition today announced the winners of its inaugural awards program in four categories: Advocacy, Government, Journalism, Citizen. 

  • Sunshine Week news roundup - Sunday March 15

    Today kicks off the annual Sunshine Week program and media outlets across the state have stories highligting right to know issues. We'll put together a daily roundup this week. Today's stories include an Associated Press report on fees, delays out of the governor's office and a Carolina Public Press report on closed sessions in the western counties. 

  • Sunshine Day 2015

    Registration for Sunshine Day 2015 is open and ongoing. This year's event will be at the Durham Convention Center on March 16. It includes a keynote speech from Attorney General Roy Cooper and the inaugaration of the North Carolina Open Government Coalition's awards program. 

  • Elon Poll: N.C. supports police body cameras & public release of footage

    While most people in the latest Elon University Poll approved of police officers wearing body cameras, when respondents were asked whether the video footage itself should be made available for public inspection, patterns started to vary based on political ideology and race.

  • Bill would create new exemption for port contracts

    Some contracts entered into by the State Ports Authority would no longer be public records under a bill filed last week. 

  • UNC System Board of Governors action raises meetings law questions

    The UNC System Board of Governors voted Friday to close three academic centers on three different campuses. Prior to the vote, the board moved into a smaller room after several audience outbursts. They allowed the press to attend, but did not allow the general public into the relocated meeting. 

  • Department of Cultural Resources issues retention policy on body-worn videos

    The Department of Cultural Resources issued a new records retention policy Thursday for municipal law enforcement agencies that is intended to cover body-worn video recordings. Videos that are not part of an investigative file, citizen complaint or internal affairs investigation should be destroyed after 30 days. 

  • UNC Chapel Hill foundation claims exemption from public records law as non-profit, and exemption from IRS filings as government affiliate 

    The Daily Tar Heel: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Foundation declined to fulfill a public records request claiming it was not subject to the public records law because it is a non-profit organization and not a government agency. The foundation has not filed a Form 990 financial disclosure since 2008 because it claims to be exempt from the Internal Revenue Service's reporting rules as a government affiliated non-profit. 

  • Robeson County incentives vote raises meetings law question

    Fayetteville Observer: Robeson County commissioners approved a tax incentives package Monday for "Project Apple" without identifying the company behind the proposal. The Open Meetings Law prohibits boards from taking actions by reference when the intent is to make it impossible for the public to understand what is being decided. 

  • Senate bill would require academic commission to live stream meetings on Internet

    A bill working its way through the General Assembly would require the Academic Standards Review Commission - a recently established state group that is reviewing Common Core standards - to live stream its meetings. The commission would also be required to post all meeting materials online. 

  • Mecklenburg to put some court case records online

    As part of a pilot to bring greater access to court files, the Mecklenburg Clerk of Superior Court is plans to place documents from high profile cases online this month. The first two cases include a domestic violence charge against a Carolina Panthers player and a manslaughter charge against a former police officer. 

  • N.C. Court of Appeals orders first expedited review of a public records case

    After initially declining the Times-News's request for an expedited appeal of its public records suit against the Alamance-Burlington School System, the Court of Appeals this week set a short schedule for the attorneys to file and indicated the case would be put on the first available docket.  The N.C. Supreme Court instructed the Court of Appeals to reconsider providing an expedited review last week. 

  • UNC project wins $50,000 award to improve transparency at General Assembly

    The Capitol Hound project of UNC's Reese News Lab won a $50,000 award. Capitol Hound creates keyword searchable transcripts and email alerts of General Assembly hearings. With the grant, the service will be given to news outlets across the state free of charge to improve statehouse coverage. 

  • Charlotte Google event raises meetings law questions

    Charlotte Observer: A majority of the Charlotte City Council attended a Google sponsored reception Wednesday that was closed to the public, raising concerns that the event violated the N.C. Open Meetings Law

  • Burlington newspaper asks NC Supreme Court for expedited review of appeal

    The Times-News of Burlington is seeking review by the state supreme court of an order denying access to closed-session minutes of the Alamance-Burlington School System's Board of Education. The newspaper filed a lawsuit against the school in October after the board refused to provide unredacted minutes from May meetings where the performance of Superintendent Lillie Cox was discussed. Cox resigned and was given a $200,000 severance package. 

  • Court of Appeals affirms that settlement agreements are public records

    In 2008 Carolinas Healthcare System filed a lawsuit against Wachovia, which was settled in 2012 with a confidential agreement. Attorney Gary Jackson sought a copy of the agreement under the N.C. Public Records Act, which specifically designates settlement agreements as public. CHS declined to provide it and a trial court found it was exempt because the lawsuit was initiated by CHS. On Wednesday the Court of Appeals affirmed that settlement agreements are public records regardless of who initiates the lawsuit. 

  • As part of records lawsuit settlement, UNC Chapel Hill identifies employees it is seeking to fire

    In the wake of an exhaustive investigation into acjademic irregularities at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chancellor Carol Folt said in October that nine employees would be disciplined or fired. When the university refused to identify the nine employees, in contravention of the Public Records Act and the State Personnel System Act, a coalition of 10 media outlets sued. On Wednesday, the university identified the four employees it is seeking to fire and agreed to identify the other five employees if disciplinary actions are upheld following administrative appeals. 

  • Asheville newspaper sues city over police videos

    The Asheville Citizen-Times filed a public records lawsuit Monday against the city of Asheville over recordings made by plain-clothes police officers attending public rallies. The existence of the videos was revealed by the newspaper in September. The city has declined to release them citing the criminal intelligence exemption int the N.C. Public Records Act. 

  • Court of Appeals rejects public records appeal of former Durham district attorney

    The Court of Appeals found that an assistant director of the Administrative Office of the Courts was not the custodian of court system emails. It rejected AOC's argument that the individual writers of email were the custodians, and instead found that the director of AOC is. 

  • Judge orders mediation in UNC Chapel Hill suit

    Wake Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens ordered UNC Chapel Hill and 10 media outlets that have sued the university to mediate their dispute over public records. Stephens told lawyers for the university he was "troubled" that the chancellor had announced the discipline or firing of nine employees without providing additional information. 

  • Burlington paper to appeal court decision on closed-session minutes

    The Burlington Times-News sued Alamance-Burlington School System in October seeking copies of closed-session meeting minutes related to the departure of Superintendent Lillie Cox. Special Superior Court Judge Lucy Inman ruled this week that the records can be withheld, and the newspaper said it would appeal. 

  • Defense Dept. releases military equipment data that N.C. Dept. of Public Safety withheld

    WRAL: The U.S. Department of Defense on Thursday released information about what specific pieces of surplus military equipment were provided to local law enforcement agencies across the state. The N.C. Department of Public Safety had previously refused to release the information citing the public records exemption for specific details about security plans.

  • Media outlets file lawsuit against UNC Chapel Hill over personnel records

    A coalition of 10 media outlets filed a lawsuit Monday against the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill over the university's refusal to release information about employees punished or dismissed in the wake of the Wainstein report on academic irregularities. This is the third public records lawsuit against the university since the academic-athletic scandal began in 2010. 

  • Cellphone surveillance records released in Mecklenburg 

    Media outlets asked Mecklenburg Superior Court Judge Richard Boney to unseal court orders authorizing the surveillance after the existence of the secret program was revealed by the Charlotte Observer in October. The District Attorney's office must now review hundreds of cases to determine if information was improperly kept from defendants in cases dating back to 2010. 

  • Wilmington charter school relents, turns financial data over to state

    Under threat of sanction from the State Board of Education, Charter Day School, Inc. finally released salary information to the Department of Public Instruction. Despite Charter Day stamping the information a "trade secret," DPI said it will release the data to the public Monday evening. 

  • Key figure in UNC Chapel Hill public records disputes leaving university

    UNC Chapel Hill Vice Chancellor and General Counsel Leslie Strohm has accepted a similar position at the University of Louisville. Strohm has been the university's top attorney through several public records lawsuits. 

  • Gov. Pat McCrory says "personnel laws ... need to be changed to allow more transparency"

    Toward the end of a wide-ranging interview with WFAE public radio in Charlotte, Gov. Pat McCrory said that the state's personnel laws need to be changed to allow more transparency.  McCrory's statement was in response to a question about the resignation of Charlotte-Mecklenberg Schools Superintendent Heath Morrison. 

  • Avery County court records sealed in investigation of high school Halloween party rape allegation

    The Sylva Herald: The SBI is investigating allegations of rape and underage drinking related to a high school Halloween party. The party was held at the business of a contractor with the sheriff's office, and was attended by a deputy and a county dispatcher. Superior Court Judge Brad Letts sealed court records related to the investigation for 90 days. 

  • Environmental groups criticize closed-door meeting on offshore drilling 

    Gov. Pat McCrory held an invitation-only meeting Thursday with representatives of state and federal agencies as well as the oil and gas industry to discuss the possibilities of offshore drilling in North Carolina. Several environmental groups requested the meeting be open to the public. McCrory opened the meeting at the end for a question and answer session. 

  • Charter school group that refuses to release salary information may face state sanctions

    The State Board of Education is threatening sanctions against Charter Day School, Inc., of Wilmington, in an ongoing dispute over disclosure of salaries of employees contracted through a for-profit company. Charter Day School has refused to disclose them to the state unless a promise of confidentiality is made and it has not provided the information when requested under the N.C. Public Records Law. 

  • Charlotte media sue for access to secret court records on police cellphone tracking 

    The Charlotte Observer and WBTV on Friday filed a motion in Mecklenberg County Superior Court seeking access to court files related to Charlotte-Mecklenberg Police Department's use of StingRay technology, which mimics cellphone towers and allows police to track cellphone use. The court files have remained sealed at the police's request, and the records go back to 2006. 

  • UNC Chapel Hill launches public records site

    As part of the university's response to a long-running academic and athletic scandal, it launched a new public records tracking website Wednesday. The public can see what requests have been made of the university.