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We are the Sunshine Center of the North Carolina Open Government Coalition. If you are a records or meetings holder or someone seeking access to records or meetings, we hope this site will be a useful resource. Check out our educational resources about open government.

News Archive

Elon University: E-net News and Information
  • Fuller offers insights for article about town's public records fees

    Brooks Fuller, director of the North Carolina Open Government Coalition and Sunshine Center and instructor of journalism, offers his perspective about a town charging a fee of $70,000 to a local newspaper to fulfill a public records request. 

  • Sunshine Day 2019 Award Winners Announced

    The winners of the N.C. Open Government Coalition's fifth annual Sunshine Awards were announced at Sunshine Day on Elon University's campus Monday. The winners are Joel Burgess (Asheville Citizen-Times), Bob Hagemann (retired city attorney, Charlotte), Sunshine Request (Patrick Conant and PRC Apps), and Tracy Ledford Deyton (Bakersville, NC). 

  • Fuller cited in article about access to  meetings of public bodies

    The article in the Asheville Citizen-Times that focused on an emergency meeting by UNC-Asheville included comments from Brooks Fuller, director of the N.C. Open Government Coalition and instructor in communications. 

  • Sunshine Day 2019 Events Announced - Updated 2/25

    NC Open Gov. Coalition and the Elon University School of Communications to host Sunshine Day on March 11, 2019.

  • Brooks Fuller named director of North Carolina Open Government Coalition

    The former assistant professor at Louisiana State University and North Carolina attorney will also teach in Elon’s School of Communications.

  • In open government lawsuits, a look at who pays (and who should)

    A forthcoming law review article by Elliot Engstrom, an Elon Law Legal Method and Communication Fellow, analyzes a North Carolina law that leaves open to interpretation who should cover the costs of legal fees when a person sues state and local governments for lack of transparency.

  • 2018 Sunshine Award Winners

    The North Carolina Open Government Coalition recgonizes three people whose work has helped make and keep North Carolina government transparent in the last year: Will Hendrick of the Waterkeepers Alliance, Nick Ochsner of WBTV News, and William McKinney of the Office of the Governor. 

  • Sunshine Day 2018 -CANCELLED

    Due to inclement weather forecasts in Greensboro for March 12, 2018, the annual Sunshine Day event is cancelled. 

  • Sunshine Awards 2018

    The N.C. Open Government Coalition is accepting nominations for its annual Sunshine Awards program. The organization recognizes people who have worked to make North Carolina government more transparent throughout the year by advocating for transparency, by using the sunshine laws to tell important stories and by being transparent agencies.  Nominations are due by March 1.

  • Elon Law instructor shares insights on public record requests

    Elliot Engstrom, a Legal Method & Communication Fellow, recently delivered a presentation to attorneys and legal observers on North Carolina's public record statutes and case law, arguing that the state needs a better approach to ensuring government transparency.

  • News & Observer series on jail deaths features insights from Elon's Jones

    Jonathan Jones is the director of the N.C. Open Government Coalition and an instructor in the School of Communications. 

  • Media coverage features insights from Jones on public records, police body cams 

    Jonathan Jones is an instructor in the School of Communications and the director of the N.C. Open Government Coalition. 

  • 2017 Sunshine Award Winners

    The winners of the N.C. Open Government Coalition's third annual Sunshine Awards were announced at Sunshine Day on Elon University's campus Monday. The winners are WFAE associate news director Lisa Worf, Elon law fellow Elliot Engstrom and Orange County Government. 

  • Sunshine Day 2017

    New N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein will deliver the Sunshine Day 2017 keynote on March 13. Join us for sessions on obtaining police video, social media requests and archiving and timely responses. Sunshine Day returns to Elon University's campus this year. 

  • Accepting nominations for 2017 Sunshine Awards

    The Sunshine Center each year recognizes advocates, government officials, journalists and citizens who work to make North Carolina governments transparent. Nominations are due by March 1. Winners will be announced at Sunshine Day 2017

  • Court of Appeals rejects McCrory Administration's claims of immunity

    The administration of Gov. Pat McCrory is claiming sovereign immunity in a public records lawsuit filed by several media and advocacy organizations. On Tuesday, the Court of Appeals dismissed that claim and returned the case to the trial court. 

  • New exemptions, change in access to public records proposed in special session

    The General Assembly called its fourth special session of the year Wednesday afternoon. A regulatory reform bill filed in the House would create a new exemption for certain information held by the public utility comission, expand two other existing exemptions related to personal information and would significantly change how government agencies can provide access to public records.  A separate bill would exempt photographs of people who have been arrested. A third would exempt certain information about community association managers. 

  • Q&A: Police video & the law

    A police shooting of a civilian in Charlotte that was caught on video by dashboard and body cameras has raised questions about how the current Public Records Law and a new revision that takes effect Oct. 1 apply.  We try to provide some answers. 

  • Legislative updates - 2016

    With the General Assembly back in Raleigh for the biannual short session, the legislature is once again considering bills that would effect government transparency. So far they've  passed four new exemptions to the Public Records Law, including one for body-worn camera  and dash camera video collected by law enforcement. 

  • Police video bill passes legislature, sent to governor

    A bill that removes all police video, including body cameras, dash cameras and surveillance, from public records passed the House and Senate this week. It creates a limited right of access for people who appear in the videos and allows a superior court judge to release the video if there's a compelling public interest. 

  • Judge to review Belmont investigation records, determine what's public

    Superior Court Judge Carla Archie told Belmont Tuesday to turn over to the court a copy of an independent investigative report into the city's police department that led to the firing of the chief and resignations of two other officers. The document is at the center of a public records lawsuit. The city contends it is protected as a personnel record. The siblings who asked for the file contend it is outside the scope of the personnel law. 

  • Transparency in Western North Carolina

    Freelance writer and N.C. Open Government Coalition member Tom Bennett conducted a review of how easy it is to access basic information about county commissioners in 28 western counties. He found that some counties, such as Catawba, make it easy for citizens to keep tabs on their government, and others have a long way to go. 

  • 2016 Sunshine Award Winners

    The winners of the Second Annual N.C. Open Government Coalition Sunshine Award Contest were announced Monday in Hickory. They are Henderson County Attorney Charles Russell Burrell, WRAL.com reporter Tyler Dukes and Carolina Public Press Open Government Contributor Jon Elliston. 

  • Sunshine Day 2016

    Charleston Post & Courier Executive Editor Mitch Pugh will deliver the Sunshine Day 2016 keynote on March 14 in Hickory. Join us for updates on the North Carolina Public Records Law, discussion of police use of video and our second annual awards program

  • Judge orders Alamance-Burlington schools to release one paragraph from closed session minutes

    On Monday, Judge Mike O'Foghludha ordered the Alamance-Burlington School System to release one paragraph out of 40 pages of closed session minutes from a 2014 meeting during which Superintendent Lillie Cox resigned with a $200,000 severance package. The order was stayed to give the school system time to appeal the decision in the long-running open records case. 

  • Sunshine Awards 2016 - Nominations Open

    The Sunshine Center of the N.C. Open Government Coalition is accepting nominations for its Sunshine Awards program. Winners will be honored at Sunshine Day 2016 in March. 

  • Hildebran group appeals decision over town's open meetings violation

    The Hildebran Heritage & Development Association appealed a superior court judge's decision not to overturn the results of  a town of Hildebran meeting in violation of the Open Meetings Law. The town council voted at the end of January to demolish an old school after improperly discussing the matter in an October closed meeting. 

  • In My Words: Government transparency is being lost

    Jonathan D. Jones, director of the N.C. Open Government Coalition and an instructor in Elon University's School of Communications, authored a guest column for several North Carolina newspapers about recent changes to state public record laws.

  • Budget bill includes expansion of terrorism  and school safety exemptions

    Lawmakers added several new exemptions to the public records law related to school safety during the budget bill compromise discussions. The bill unveiled Monday night would exempt anonymous safety tips made to school systems and a new statewide database. The expansion of the terrorism exemption to include law enforcements response to organized criminal activity survived budget negotiations as well. 

  • Family sues Belmont over refusal to release third-party investigative report

    The city of Belmont hired an outside firm to investigate complaints about conduct and management of its police department. The police chief was fired following the investigation, but the city has refused to release the investigative report.  

  • N.C. Supreme Court rules court database not subject to public records law

    The N.C. Supreme Court overturned the Court of Appeals Friday in a public records case brought by LexisNexis against the Administrative Office of the Courts. LexisNexis was seeking access to the Automated Criminal Infractions System (ACIS) database. The Supreme Court found that a separate statute governs access to court system records so the Public Records Law does not apply, and the separate statute allows the court system to enter into exclusive contracts for access. 

  • 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 seven new records exemptions so far. 

  • Law enforcement personnel privacy exemption passes

    The General Assembly has passed its seventh new exemption to the Public Records Law this session, this time creating limitations about what information can be released about law enforcement personnel. The new limitations exempt records of first responders' cellphones and law enforcement officers' addresses, and other "identifying information." 

  • Hundred year cap on exemptions passes

    The General Assembly passed a bill that would create a 100-year time limit on exemptions to the Public Records Law, regardless of the reason. The Department of Cultural Resources requested the change to reopen some 19th and 20th century records in the State Archives. Another provision of the bill will also settle who owns the rights to visual images of shipwrecks. 

  • 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.